Rock to Road

Not just any infrastructure

February 15, 2009  By  Andy Bateman

15, 2009
– According to the U.S. Department of
Transportation, every $1 billion spent on transport infrastructure creates
35,000 jobs, but that figure is just the beginning.

One school of thought suggests that existing assets
should be repaired or upgraded before starting new projects, if only because
more construction jobs are created in the process.  Others favour bus and train transportation projects
which are apparently even more effective at job creation than repairing existing

Perhaps the U.S. experience to date may be
instructive, where numerous “shovel ready” infrastructure projects are already
competing for the same stimulus dollar. As New York Governor David Peterson says,
“Everyone with a shovel says they’re shovel ready.”

Even if the “right” projects are “shovel ready”,
politics may be another hurdle. According to our own federal Liberals, just
under 80 per cent of all projects announced as recipients of cash from a new
multibillion-dollar federal infrastructure program are in ridings held by the
Conservatives. Of 27 infrastructure projects announced in 2007 and 2008, only six
were in ridings currently represented by opposition parties while 21 were in
federal ridings held by Conservative MPs. Unsurprisingly, the Conservatives
dispute Liberal claims of partisan funding.


With the words “infrastructure” and “shovel ready”
now vaulted in our daily lexicon, public awareness of the importance of the roadbuilding
industry is has increased significantly. The challenge now is to make sure that
public funds are seen to be spent wisely, despite the pressing need and the potholes
of competing interests and politics. 


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