Infrastructure 2016: Ballooning costs, years of delay

Anderson Memorial Bridge. Photo (cc) by Antony-22.
Anderson Memorial Bridge. Photo (cc) by Antony-22.

In the Boston Globe, Lawrence Summers and Rachel Lipson offer a devastating look at our inability to build much-needed infrastructure projects in a timely, cost-efficient manner. Their example is the Anderson Memorial Bridge, connecting Boston and Harvard Square. Anyone who has to drive through that area know it’s best to avoid it. But they offer some truly horrifying facts, starting with this: the bridge was built in just 11 months 1912, but the repairs have been going on for four years—with “no end date in sight.”

Of course, the Anderson Bridge is hardly an anomaly. What about the Green Line Extension, plagued by cost overruns and years of delay? What about the Mother of All Infrastructure Projects, the Big Dig? On a smaller scale, the interchange of Routes 128 and 62 in Danvers has been a traffic-and-safety catastrophe since it opened a few years ago—and a similar interchange just to the south, at 128 and 35, is no better.

Summers and Lipson offer a list of what went wrong with the Anderson Bridge, and it’s instructive: historically accurate bricks that had to be specially ordered (really?); a redesign making it possible to build a pedestrian underpass (but not actually building it).

We’ve got to find a way to do better.