Focus on the ribbon cutting.

Infrastructure is in decay everywhere, because politicians prefer to focus on ribbon cuttings for shiny new things rather than fix what is broken:

Politicians are pushing to use scarce public funds to build new bridges, experts say, instead of spending that money on repairing and maintaining existing structures.

“It’s a lot harder to cut a ribbon on a pothole repair project,” said Roger Millar, a vice president at Smart Growth America, an advocacy group that focuses on sustainable development.

This happening everywhere. Waterloo, Canada, where I live, has a huge infrastructure deficit by their calculations. The undated presentation states:

• 50.3% of roads were deficient
• Up from 2007 when staff rated 35% of roads were deficient
• Current Deficit is $170M

And then this morning, as if on cue, I saw this press release:

(Waterloo , Ont. – July 15, 2013) Please join us for the official groundbreaking for the new Waterloo Park frontage on Father David Bauer Drive.

City staff applied for grants for this and other projects, to which the city would also be required to contribute:

The grant application was among three the city submitted to the government last August. The city applied for more than $1.8 million in federal grant money for three city projects — Waterloo Park upgrades, improvements to city trails and repairs to the Clay and Glass gallery roof.

Strangely, none of these three items show up in the infrastructure deficit report above.

As I’ve noted before, the infrastructure deficit isn’t a list of things municipal politicians ever plan to fix. It is just something they use to cajole upper levels of government to get more of our tax dollars. And even when they do, don’t expect the infrastructure to be fixed.

Waterloo’s idea of fixing infrastructure is to spend about $3 million dollars to turn a four lane road – Davenport Road – into a two lane road with medians, and rarely used bike lanes. Then to hold a $5,000 party to open the road with the “leftover” cash.

And now they are spending money on Waterloo Park, though it isn’t clear for what yet:

Upgrading the Father David Bauer Drive frontage of Waterloo Park wasn’t in the city’s 10-year plan of capital projects, but was brought forward by staff prior to a federal-grant application.


“Now I kind of feel like I don’t really understand what I’m buying,” Freeman said.

No reason to be concerned though.

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