Combs Spouts Off

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Deferred maintenance

Posted by Richard on August 16, 2007

A few weeks ago, I was stuck in traffic just before passing under a bridge somewhere, and I was struck by how rusty the girder in front of me was. This wasn't a terribly old bridge — maybe twenty years at the most. And it looked otherwise in fine shape. But the paint was gone from the top two-thirds of this big girder, replaced by rust.

I remember being annoyed at the state highway department and thinking that in ten years, they'll say the bridge needs replacing and whine about not having enough money in their budget. Yet, it would probably last a century if they spent a relatively piddling sum every few years to paint it and perform other routine maintenance. 

Since the Milwaukee bridge collapse, we've heard a chorus of voices calling for more spending on infrastructure (and usually calling for tax increases to fund that, despite overwhelming evidence that tax cuts provide more revenue, not tax increases).

But anyone with even a passing familiarity with federal and state spending and budgets knows our infrastructure isn't in disrepair due to lack of funding. The problem is the incentives are all wrong. 

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