The Economist (Aug 29; "Infrastructure in the rich world ...") takes us once more through the sad lament that "infrastructure" is being short-changed. But the catch-all aggregation "infrastructure" obscures that fact that we can over-invest and under-invest at the same time. In California we will have miserably potholed streets (for the many) as well as high-speed trains (for the few). This is the politics we have. The cited article suggests that it is not simply a U.S. problem. Bent Flyvbjerg has been making these points for many years.
Suggested reforms are hard to take seriously because when there are mega-projects, there will be mega- dollars and mega-politics. But for starters, let's stop talking about "infrastructure" as if it were all interchangeable and malleable capital to be funded with fungible dollars. Never talk about the proposed new projects in the same reports as upkeep and maintenance of old projects. The former always nose out the latter.
There are now cities that can say "no" to hosting Olympic games because of well earned reputations for budget disasters. Perhaps there could also be progress in the "infrastructure" discussion if we clarify -- and then try to prioritize.
From the Sep 2 WSJ: "The U.S. Olympic Committee and city of Los Angeles officially launched their bid for the 2024 Olympics on Tuesday after the City Council voted unanimously to approve an agreement that will pave the way for the city to become America’s replacement candidate for the Games." Some cities have learned to say "no." For LA, it will be potholes all the way down.