Groan. Opportunity cost = opportunity lost

From the TJ today:

When governors from New England and premiers from the Canadian East met this week, they were presented with highlights from a yet-to-be released study, and one astounding conclusion: spruce up your highways, railways and ports and it’ll bring 100,000 jobs.

I guess this report has not been made public. I remember when the launched this study – I think it was three years ago it was something like a million dollar study. From the terms of reference, I think it should have been a couple of hundred thousand but the consultant can spend a million if they are given time.

I will be first in line to read it. I am extremely suspect of studies that conclude that building transportation infrastructure will automatically lead to more economci growth. The Atl. Gateway was supposed to bring 60,000 jobs. I haven’t seen one yet.

All the highway construction – several billion dollars worth in the past 10 years – was done largely in the name of economic development. I drove the Moncton-Fredericton highway last week twice – there might have been a couple of dozen cars.

The point is we need to look at is the highest and best use of public dollars. Why has it become easy to spend $200 million on a bypass road in Northern New Brunswick and almost impossible to get that amount to transform the Belledune Port into something that could add real economic value?

The last think we need is for New Brunswick to spend another billion on roads. Keep the potholes filled. Keep the lines paved. But the big investments are far more needed elsewhere.

And the same thing goes for Northern Maine. Twinning the 1-95 right to the Canadian border was expected to lead to wonderful economic development opportunities for Northern Maine. Did it? Now we hear that an east-west four lane highway will lead to wonderful economic development opportunities for Northern Maine. Will it?

Don’t get me wrong. I a big supporter of the east-west highway – particularly that it is proposed to be privately funded. But these people that want to tell us that highways are enough are crazy. It’s what you do after that matters. It’s what you do with those bright shiny highways that matters.

I hope this million dollar study addresses this point but it probably won’t.