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Why Are We Paying States to Build Highways Expensively and Indefinitely?

In the 1960s, a system was authorized by LBJ that put lots of money in Appalachian state coffers. Aiming to reduce the isolation and inconvenience...


In the 1960s, a system was authorized by LBJ that put lots of money in Appalachian state coffers. Aiming to reduce the isolation and inconvenience of some of America's poorest areas, the Appalachian Development Highway System was going to accomplish this by building thousands of miles of blacktop, largely at the federal government's expense. On approved projects, the feds fork over four dollars for each one spent by the state. Four and a half decades have passed and, guess what? The system still exists. It's the subject of a new piece by our friends at WNET called Zombie Highways.The program has been informally dubbed "cost-to-complete," which tells you a little something about how it works. "States have an incentive to add more and more highways to the program, build them as expensively as possible – and never finish them, because doing so would 'turn off that federal spigot of money,'" writes WNET's Rick Karr.This episode, which you can watch here, looks at a proposed 52-mile Alabama stretch of road that would cost taxpayers over $3 billion. Talk about a questionable allocation of resources.(Thanks, Steve!)
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