Editorial: Public Works
March 6, 2006
Members and friends:
Last week our speaker, Congressman Nadler, advanced a proposal about a very large public works project. The idea was, crossing New York Harbor with a tunnel from Brooklyn to New Jersey. It would very likely accomplish what the proponents are saying it will do.
Creating a solid rail link with the rest of America sounds like a great way to improve rail freight efficiency. But it goes well beyond efficiency. The millions, and I mean literally millions, of trucks that would be removed from our roads would have an enormous net effect on traffic, air quality, and the regional economy. This plan calls for several distribution point in the boroughs of Brookly, Queens, the Bronx and Long Island. We need to learn all over again to think about the grand scale projects, like this one, that stirs the imagination.
We are living off the investments of our fathers and our grandfathers. We can only do that for so long and then we become a third world country. My oldest brother was a tug boat captain managing the steel placement under the Verazzano Bridge. At about the same time my other brother was a tugboat captain on the Throgs Neck Bridge. These were large and successful projects. Where is our verve? We don’t do this kind of work anymore. These were among the last of the major infrastructure investments in this region, we have had the nerve to invest in.
Presently I’m reading an account of the building of the Empire State Building. I believe that structure still stands out as an overwhelming testament to the human spirit, and to the people who built it. The tallest building in the world when it was built, and it was ahead of schedule and under budget. Keep in mind that a lot of the technology they used, was being invented as they planned their work. No building had ever been designed like this one.
As the Congressman pointed out, the infrastructure needs a lot of help. However that could be a big positive. Here is an example; “Our rail system in America would,” as one pundit, put it, “make a Bulgarian blush with embarrassment.” As bad as that assessment sounds, it also means that we would lose very little if we scrapped the whole mess and embarked on a new technology. The magnetically levitated train has a high speed potential of 350 miles/hour. The best that the Europeans and Japanese can do with the latest technology they are using is 225 MPH. With imaginative leadership we can turn this country around from a large, but constantly diminishing economy, to an ever expanding economy based on what we used to call “American ingenuity.”
On energy matters we could, according to the experts that I have spoken too, reduce our energy needs by at least 10% without inventing anything new. Here again, that would only be a starting point. A concerted effort in energy research could result in energy independence in just a few short years. It would, of course, require enlightened leadership. With the exception of a few examples, this enlightened leadership is wanting.
The question is; Where will this leadership come from? Well, don’t look to government to initiate anything that’s new. And, don’t look to the large corporations either. The impetus for change must come from the people. The “leaders” will do what we ask them to do. How we tell them, is with our votes. Instead of asking politicians if they are for or against abortion, or gay rights, perhaps we should ask what are their positions on energy, the national debt, transportation, and healthcare. They should know, if they want to run on those non-issues, then they do so at their own peril.
Let’s keep in mind that political people are neither our friends nor our foes. We should treat them with respect, and they should return the gesture. They are our stewards of the system of representative government. That’s a humble position, and if they can’t understand it, maybe they should try their hand at Hollywood.