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Articles by Charles Marohn

Charles Marohn is a professional engineer licensed in the state of Minnesota and a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He is president of the nonprofit organization Strong Towns.

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Photo: lovelydead

Cross-posted from Strong Towns.

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has just released a report that should be titled “Pretending it is 1952.” Like a broken record, ASCE is again painting a bleak picture of the future if American politicians — as if they need to be plied — won’t open up the checkbook for our noble engineers. And in a way that the Soviet Central Committee would have expected from Pravda, the media and blogger world is sounding the alarm. This feels more like a cult than a serious discussion on America’s future.

In the Long Depression of the 1870s, the railroads found they had overinvested in transportation capacity. Speculating on future growth and the returns on land development, they collectively built more rail lines than could be put to productive use. The result was a huge financial correction in which the private-sector railroads consolidated their routes, downsized their unproductive infrastructure, and put their reserve capacity into endeavors that had a higher rate of return. This was a painful, but necessary, correction.

The parallels to 2011 are obv... Read more

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