The easiest project to start is a road through a strip of desert with no people and none of the wildlife deemed vulnerable by environmentalists. Yet even this kind of infrastructure lay-up would take three years from conception until the start of construction, according to an executive at a global firm that advises on such projects. Draw the proposed road to run through an urban area or environmentally sensitive terrain, or assume that negotiations are necessary to acquire land, and 36 months easily turns into seven years of planning before the project is ready for a shovel.
Want to build a bridge? Preparing to create such an economic stimulant requires at least five years, assuming no complications. Mr. Obama may dream of another New Deal-era of big public projects, but he may not fully appreciate the innovations that have occurred in the past three-quarters of a century. At all levels of government, techniques for delaying construction while making it more costly have rapidly advanced, especially in the area of environmental review. It's possible that the massive Hoover Dam, completed in 1935, couldn't even be built today. "Damming rivers is a very touchy subject now," says our source, given the environmental concerns about impact on fish and other species.
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