Boon or boondoggle?
The debate about an Interstate connector for Warren County goes back to the 1960s, according to a recent news story. So do I. Actually, the debate and I both go back to the 1950s, when Bob Walsh of the Warren Observer prophetically observed that if the planned “Keystone Shortway” did not follow the Route 6 corridor, Warren County would sink into Appalachia. He was uncomfortably close to correct.
Back in the 1960s, an Interstate connector would have preserved much of Warren County’s industry. But this is not the 1960s. What is gone is gone, and it is wishful thinking to believe that a road, by itself, will bring back manufacturing.
Here near DuBois, a decade and more ago, we spent $35 million of federal and state money to build a three mile or so connector between Interstate 80 and the DuBois/Jefferson airport. The airport would thrive, we were told; industry would locate nearby, we were told. Well, a bit of that did happen, but nowhere near enough to justify $35 million in spending. Each year, federal money for airports becomes more and more of a last gasp as we spend ourselves into Third World status. My guess, based on that half-century of experience, is that the $160 million price tag will double. “Gee, we didn’t know we would have to cross wetlands and smooth out hills.”
It makes no sense to build this road just so existing firms can become more profitable.
It only makes sense if objective analysis concludes that jobs will come in the hundreds, not that they might come.
If this has not happened for a half-century, it just might be that the time for this has come and gone. These days, we use cell phone towers, not telephone pole wires.
All those loud Trump supporters hereabouts shout “Cut spending!” Why build a road from closed plant to closed plant?