Jerusalem Demsas wrote an article for Vox titled Why does it cost so much to build things in America?  (June 29, 2021)

« And that’s with the nation often avoiding tunneling projects, which are often the most complicated and expensive parts of any new metro line. According to the Transit Costs Project, the five countries with higher costs than the US “are building projects that are more than 80 percent tunneled … [whereas in the US] only 37 percent of the total track length is tunneled.” »

« Leah Brooks, an economist at George Washington University, also studied the highway problem. Her research finds that states spent nearly three times as much to build a mile of highway in the 1980s as they did in the early ‘60s. »

« In New York, the Second Avenue Subway cost $2.6 billion per mile, in San Francisco the Central Subway cost $920 million per mile, in Los Angeles the Purple Line cost $800 million per mile. »

« In contrast, Copenhagen built a project at just $323 million per mile, and Paris and Madrid did their projects for $160 million and $320 million per mile, respectively. These are massive differences in cost. »

« the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in 1970  »

« NEPA required environmental impact statements (EIS) for “major federal actions” that could “significantly affect” the environment, write the Niskanen Center’s Brink Lindsey and Samuel Hammond. Lawsuits have turned what were once reasonable requirements into behemoths:

An EIS could be as short as 10 pages … [but]under the pressure of litigation the law’s demands grew ever more onerous: Today the average EIS runs more than 600 pages, plus appendices that typically exceed 1,000 pages. The average EIS now takes 4.5 years to complete; between 2010 and 2017, four such statements were completed after delays of 17 years or more. And remember, no ground can be broken on a project until the EIS has made it through the legal gauntlet – and this includes both federal projects and private projects that require a federal permit. »

«  “Once the construction process starts, people complain. And those complaints lead to lawsuits,” NYU professor and transit researcher Eric Goldwyn explains. Even in New York City where in 2018, 62 percent of all reported trips were made by transit, biking, or walking, the Second Avenue Subway project was plagued with disruptions by locals. »

« SPUR, a California public policy nonprofit, argues that its state’s environmental protection law (CEQA) “is often used inappropriately to delay or stop transit and sustainable transportation projects that would have significant benefit to the environment.” »

Boston’s Green Line Extension

« To try and figure out the root causes of America’s transit costs problem, NYU researchers Goldwyn, Alon Levy, and Elif Ensari looked to Boston, where the Green Line Extension (GLX) has been in the works for three decades. The 4.3-mile light rail project was estimated to cost $1.12 billion in 2012 — by 2015, that number had nearly tripled. Unsurprisingly, the project was put on hold. »

« Agencies aren’t routinely in charge of building new things, so every time they do, it’s back to the drawing board. »

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