Building Better Infrastructure

This article originally appeared at the Weekly Standard. Click here to read the full article.

By Ike Brannon

A few years ago, I returned to my Central Illinois hometown to join in a homecoming party for a family friend who had been away for 30 years. As we men stood watch on the grill at the celebratory barbecue, our esteemed visitor remarked without irony that he noticed that work was still being done on the bridge that crosses the creek on the way to “town”—Peoria, in this instance—just as it was being done three decades ago when he left. There was a long pause before someone fully comprehended the context and informed him that we had, in fact, completed the original bridge replacement project not long after he left and that the current work was to rehab the bridge, as 30-year-old bridges sometimes require.

it is easy to see why he made the mistake he did, because the original rebuild back in the 1980s played havoc on many people’s lives. What had been promised to be a three-month job took nearly a year: the low-bid subcontractor assigned to build the approaches to the bridge found itself in over its head and eventually punted on the assignment. the main contractor then had to pay handsomely to get a team that would attempt to work through the winter—an effort that proved virtually useless owing to the particular severity of the season that year. the job ultimately cost much more than originally anticipated, an expense that was passed on to the citizens of our township, and left us forced to navigate a lengthy detour “to town” for much longer than was necessary.