I only have first-hand experience with two of the pieces of U. S. infrastructure listed by Popular Mechanics in its review of U. S. infrastructure in urgent need of attention, the Chicago Circle and O’Hare Airport. I note, proudly, that two of the listed items are in Chicago, the only city so blessed.
I agree completely with their assessments of the Chicago Circle:
After years of being ranked two of the worst traffic bottlenecks in the country by groups like the American Highway Users Alliance, both the U.S. 101 at the I-405 Interchange in Los Angeles and the I-610 and I-10 Interchange in Houston are being revamped. But the third-worst spot for highway congestion, Chicago’s Circle Interchange, is going nowhere. One parkway and three expressways meet here, and close to 300,000 vehicles a day are forced to reduce speed while navigating a network of tightly curved ramps. The result: an estimated 25 million hours in delays per year. A $975 million expansion project might relieve traffic on one of the expressways, but no plans have been announced to address the congested interchange itself.
It had the country’s worst record of on-time departures in the first half of 2007 (fewer than 65 percent), according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. And Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport is also among the worst in terms of near-misses on the runway–the airport saw 68 runway incursions between 2001 and 2006, with three close calls in March 2006. New radar designed to help prevent such incursions has been criticized by air traffic controllers, who claim that the systems are blinded by snow and rain. Reconfiguring the multiple crossing runways could help.
IMO both problems have languished as a consequence of the manifest incompetence of city, county, and state governments. O’Hare expansion, a prerequisite for the fixes PM notes, has proceeded at a glacial pace at least partially due to opposition of neighboring towns who, ironically, owe their growth to O’Hare, the very institution they oppose.
The problems with the Chicago Circle are the long in coming consequences of the late Mayor Daley’s insistence that every major highway in the area pass through Chicago’s downtown. While that policy has kept the Chicago Loop lively, especially by comparison with other Midwestern downtowns, it also has a downside, in this case the incredible congestion.
Can anyone provide a convincing argument, other than the local citizens not being interested enough in the infrastructure on which they depend to pay for them, that any of PM’s ten critical problems, let alone all ten, should be paid for by the federal government?