A great item by David Lepeska takes note of the absurdly high construction costs New York City is facing in completing the Second Avenue Subway.
He notes that a recent line in Madrid cost just $58 million per square kilometer. Singapore’s Circle Line cost $130 million per kilometer. Recent expansions in Paris and Berlin were done for $250 million per kilometer. London built the Jubilee Line for $350 million per kilometer. Amsterdam’s North-South Line cost $400 million per kilometer. And in New York they’re spending…$1,700 million per kilometer! That’s a lot.
My strong suspicion is that these high costs start by giving us less rail per dollar than we otherwise might have, but actually end up ultimately reducing the overall scale of appropriations. After all, if the MTA were in a position to promise three new subway lines for the price of what they’re spending on the 2nd Avenue Line, they’d have a much broader constituency of people benefiting from the projects. If the California High-Speed Rail project had somehow gotten done ahead of schedule and below cost, that would have built more momentum for HSR in other jurisdictions. Instead, they reverse tends to happen. In the long run, the upshot is that even the contractors and construction workers who benefit from high costs and inefficiency probably wind up with less work than they could have if American infrastructure projects were more reliable.