Americans spend 6.9 billion hours in traffic
Posted: December 2, 2016
Now that Thankgiving weekend is over, do you realize that American vehicles spend 6.9 billion hours a year stuck in traffic, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. At the risk of stating the obvious, that is a lot of down time. If each of these vehicles, which include buses, has an average of 1.5 adults in them, these vehicle hours would translate to roughly 5 million unpaid full-time jobs. Or enough hours to build the Empire State Building and the Hoover Dam more than 100 times each.
The numbers are getting worse. By 2020, those 6.9 billion lost hours are projected to be 8.3 billion lost hours. Which is a good way of saying that America needs a big jolt of investment in transportation infrastructure. A trillion dollars over the next 10 years on top of the roughly 900 million already slated would not be extravagant.
A good bit of that is needed just to fix facilities that have fallen into disrepair. And significant investments in new capacity are needed to keep the U.S. economy from falling behind. These would include expanding roads and constructing highways as well as mass transit systems.
While this might seem impossible for a federal government with nearly $20 trillion in debt, and for states to face their own looming pension crises, it is not. In fact, it would likely pay for itself in enhanced economic activity.
Those on the other side of the aisle say one idea is quickly gaining support in Washington: More infrastructure. Democrat Nancy Pelosi from California says she will "work together" with the Trump Administration and "quickly pass a robust infrastructure jobs bill".
The problem with politically created infrastructure jobs is that there is little evidence that more infrastructure spending is a good way to boost the economy or promote job growth. In reality, these projects often fail to deliver on gains while costs spiral out of control, leading Oxford University Bent Flyvbjerg to propose the Iron Law of Management: "Over budget, over time, benefits over and over again".
Donald Trump has proposed spending a lot of money on infrastructure improvements. In fact, he has proposed spending $550 billion as an injection to light up the economy over the next decade.
However, as is often the case these days in Washington these days, much of the focus and attention will be in gimmicky ways the program might be financed.