Saturday, June 12, 2021

Why Do Public Works Projects Take So Long?

Have you ever had the thought, "Why is it taking so long to fix this road?"

This is a topic I've written about several times (examples here and here). Given our progress in engineering and science, there is no logical reason public works projects should take as long as they do in the United States. They cost less and are completed much more quickly in foreign nations. 

President Kennedy making his historic
announcement setting a goal of going to the moon

Based on what I am reading about NASA's efforts to return America to the moon, it looks like it will take longer now than it did in the 60's -- even though our science and technology is so much better and that we have the experience of having already done it. 

I discovered a video that attempts to answer the question and it is here. They put the majority of the blame on regulations and a lesser part of the blame on bad management. I think the producers of the video don't attach enough blame to bad management. As I documented in the blue-linked story above, environmental regulations do not explain how you can pass seven work zones on a weekday afternoon with not a single person working. 

There is a third factor that not mentioned in the video and that is America's ridiculous competitive bid process. A company with no experience will submit a low-ball bid, get the project half-finished and then tell the unit of government, "we need more money or we have to abandon the project." The government then thinks it has no choice but to give them the money. This scam is repeated across the nation. From what I have read, the bid process in European nations factors in the experience and track record of the bidders, thus more efficiency and, in the long run, less expense. 

I readily acknowledge I don't know how to solve this problem because there are competing incentives. Still, it is a problem that needs fixing.

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