As a European, my guess is Skippy would argue for the boondoggle that always raises its head when discussions of infrastructure investment come up--High Speed Rail. Allow I address this issue a moment since when I was TAing Environmental Ethics, the issue of rail investment was a significant one.ladajo wrote:So now let us argue about how you measure developed infrastructure.
Europe has invested in rail much more than has the US. It is still very expensive. Here in the US, Amtrak was nationalized during the Nixon years with the promise that it would be turned around and privatized in a year or two. It has since that time never turned a profit. The reason is simple. Rail is not an efficient means of commuting.
Inside a city, where most people don't own a car and couldn't afford to park one, a cheap commuter rail system makes sense. Almost anywhere else it does not. This is seen by the numbers. Rail costs far more than people can afford to pay for it. If people were to pay the real market costs for all rail service, only inner city rail would exist. The biggest mistake in commuter rail service to date is the new HSR system in China, that costs so much that the masses it was supposedly built for cannot afford to use it. When comparing commute times, rail statistics become even more abysmal. Although Europeans generally work far fewer hours in a week, their average work day is far longer than Americans because of the lengthy commute times created by using rail. Conversely, commute times with cars are always less.
On top of all the economic failings of rail as an ideal transport system, consider the complications caused by pressing for especially "high speed" rail. HSR can't function inside a city. It's only safe through relatively rural areas. It requires very large tracts of land to be appropriated through eminent domain--something fairly antagonistic to the American paradigm--not just for the tracks themselves, but for a larger buffer zone so that things flying off a 100 MPH train don't cause serious injury to bystanders. High speed rail has very few places in the US where it is appropriate.
The railways between Boston, NYC and DC are not suitable for HSR. Hourly shuttle service by aircraft is so popular between these cities when the price of energy is low enough to support it, that for decades, Eastern flew an hourly shuttle between these three cities and could certainly do so again, if the price of energy would drop back to a level relative to what it was in the 70's. Rail cannot make this offer. It is simply not possible to create proprietary passageways sufficient for HSR between these cities, because doing so presupposes a market that is not there, energy prices we do not control, surface assets that need to be taken by force, and hundreds of billions of dollars investment--far more than is required to build and fly Boeings. Rail is simply an inferior answer.
So just saying, if you want to talk about rebuilding infrastructure fine. The federal government can pay for airport updates, improvements in ports of all sorts, the next generation air traffic control system the FAA has been working on for 20+ years, etc. Driverless and wireless recharging electric cars are on the way and should be accommodated. Soon taxis won't have drivers. It is however the states' responsibility to repair their roads and bridges, and commuter rail is generally a poor investment. Apart from inner city and especially "light rail' use, commuter rail has only existed these last 40 years because of the subsidies it gets and it certainly should not get more. If there is any investment to be made on existing commuter rail, it should be in making it safer, quieter, more efficient and economical. Faster, it does not warrant.