Last week, the Antiplanner compared the Republican Party platform, which promised to reduce wasteful transportation spending, with the Democratic platform, which promised a huge increase in infrastructure spending. Yesterday, Trump endorsed the Democratic side, promising to double whatever Hillary says she will spend. Since Hillary Clinton has called for about $275 billion worth of spending on infrastructure, Trump must want to spend more than $500 billion.
“We have many, many bridges that are in danger of falling,” said Trump. Not exactly. According to the Federal Highway Administration, in 2015 the United States (including Puerto Rico) had 58,791 “structurally deficient” bridges. But that doesn’t mean these bridges are in danger of falling. “Structurally deficient” means that the bridge has some defect that may require greater-than-normal maintenance or limit the amount of weight that can cross the bridge.
As near as I can tell, the last time a bridge fell because it was structurally deficient was 1989, shortly proceeded by one in 1987. Those collapses led to new rules and monitoring systems that have greatly reduced, if not eliminated, the problem.
Based on the new monitoring systems, in 1992 the Federal Highway Administration estimated that 124,072 highway bridges were structurally deficient, nearly 21 percent of the total. That number has declined every year since then, and now stands at less than 10 percent of the total. These facts suggest that a huge new infrastructure program isn’t needed.
The bad thing about Donald Trump is that he opens his mouth before investigating the real facts. The good thing about Donald Trump is that he seems to learn from his mistakes. Whether he’ll get a chance to learn from this one depends on the voters in November.