The Economics of the I-49 Connector in Shreveport

Shreveport, Louisiana is currently trying to build a highway through the heart of its urban core, and that makes me outraged. There are a lot of bad projects out there — vastly more than we'll ever have the capacity to give voice to — but this one is particularly egregious. It touches on all my hot buttons:

  • A project planned decades ago, in a different time with a different set of understandings, that is only moving forward today because that is the mindless nature of large bureaucracies.
  • The alignment of government and corporate interests to pursue common goals at the expense of everyone else.
  • A massive expenditure of wealth on a project that will negatively impact the community while other desperately needed community projects are starved of resources.
  • A neighborhood kept in stasis, pushed to the limits of its ability to withstand bureaucratic systems meant to wear them down over time.
  • The aspirations of people who care for their own neighborhood — people following a long American tradition of loving your community and taking responsibility for it — being marginalized by those too removed to appreciate their worth.
  • A committee of local powerbrokers assembled to overcome opposition and project a (false) united front to funding agencies.
  • Professional incompetence — or outright malfeasance — in preparing documentation to support the project.

On the last point, we're sharing today a three-part series that explains the bogus nature of a study called Economic Impacts of the I-49 Completion, Inner City Connector which was prepared to show the enormous, positive economic impact the project is allegedly going to have. It's pure propaganda. When professionals write propaganda, it has a degrading effect on our culture and diminishes all who are supposed to have the public's trust. This kind of practice — which is ubiquitous with the scale of project being done — needs to end.  - Chuck Marohn

Part I

How much would you pay for a few extra seconds?

What would you do with an additional 3.2 minutes each day? What would you do with an additional 53 cents a day? If you had an additional 3.2 minutes each day, would your day be $0.53 better off?

These are the questions that the Northwest Louisiana Council of Governments (NLCOG) is answering in its report, Economic Impacts of I-49 Completion, Inner City Connector...   Read the rest of Part I.


Part II

How many jobs will this highway really create?

Do we improve interstate highway systems to increase traffic flow and allow goods and people to get further faster? Or, do we improve interstate highway systems to open land up for development purposes? If you're part of the Northwest Louisiana Council of Governments, your answer is probably: yes. That's incoherent...   Read the rest of Part II.


Part III

The justifications for this project are pure propaganda.

In the social sciences, equations allow us to stop thinking. They give us license to be lazy, to simply apply rote math to situations that are far more complex than the numbers suggest. When we can give precision -- such as $62,118, 727, which is the so-called agglomeration effect reported on page 40 of the Economic Impacts of I-49 Completion report -- it makes it seem like we know what we're talking about. We might even believe that we do...  Read the rest of Part III.


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