What do we know?
1) Infrastructure in much of the U.S. is in bad shape. In the current New Yorker, James Surowiecki reminds everyone of this once again. Where do I go to claim $1 for every such essay written?
2) Most U.S. local governments in the U.S. are in bed with their public employees' unions. Pension obligations are huge (often unfunded) and have first claim on infrastructure (and other) revenues (see my April 7 post). On a related theme, politicians here and abroad love pork mega-projects. These are prone to cost overruns; normal infrastructure maintenance gets postponed (often indefinitely). There are no ribbon-cutting photo-ops for repair and maintenance projects. And nothing can stop the California Bullet Train project.
There is seemingly a taboo among most commentators to connect these two realities. Pork (by definition) is unlikely to be de-politicized. What we can do, however, is to only take seriously discussions of infrastructure "needs" where the writer/speaker also pays some attention to where the money already allocated is going.
BTW, here is Matt Kahn re LA's new Expo Line. And last January (and after 40+ years(!) of cheer leading), an LA Times writer looked at the numbers for LA rail transit and reported the colossal waste.
When you hear the standard laments about infrastructure, ask how the spending plans can be made pork-proof. Also ask about the California bullet trains which has no redeeming qualities.