Lambert’s Lagniappe-Mowing the Grass and Infrastructure Maintenance

As I was mowing my grass last weekend, I was thinking about home maintenance. I often joke about just paving the front yard and painting it green, but I don’t think my wife would find it attractive, and grazing sheep are definitely out of the question. So, here I am yet again, mowing the yard. While I could outsource my lawn maintenance (especially when it’s roaring hot outside) I choose not too for many reasons. This means that I must find the time to do the required yard work. When I bought the house, I knew I would be responsible for the yard; for basically, any asset you own, owns you.

Like any homeowner, the public sector is responsible for the maintenance of highways, waterways, or airports. It is often easier to find money to do something new (such as buy a house), but it is in maintenance issues where the challenge exists, as you have to balance your budget and your time.

When we consider transportation investment, we often focus on the positives—the access to new markets, mobility, and economic development— and hope that the transportation system that we operate today will provide those opportunities tomorrow. In a recent TREDIS run I conducted on the Commonwealth of Kentucky, a one-time permanent reduction in total transportation costs of 0.5% would lead to an average annual net gain of 500 new jobs added over the next thirty years. Such numbers sound good until you realize that it assumes these jobs will likely depend upon some transportation network.

It is easy to ignore the fact that a mature system requires more maintenance; just like any house still needs the grass cut and beds weeded. On second thought, I should pattern my yard maintenance on the public sector example. I will not spend any time on yard work not directly involved in planting new plants while ignoring existing plants (highway construction or maintenance) and spending no more than, say 30 minutes or so a week on total yard work (that seems to be how the nation incrementally funds the Corps’ major rehabilitation or dredging projects). I am sure that my wife and neighbors will understand that I have better things to do than yard work, especially once football season kicks off.


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