Chance favors the prepared construction lobby...
The story in today's Post about railroads, "Congress Seeks Funding for High-Speed Rail Service From D.C. to N.Y.C.: Estimated Cost of the Legislation Between $18 and $40 Billion," is maybe more about construction firms and not about creating a high quality national railroad company or railroad passenger travel system. Rep. Mica is big on providing opportunities to build national high speed rail for the private sector.
Update: more details on the "request for proposals" here: "Details on HSR-NEC " from the Transport Politic blog.
This article, "How to Do Public Works Right," in the Wall Street Journal discusses the local and state government stimulus program as an opportunity for the private sector. But at least the article focuses rightly on the value of focused investment rather than merely spending money on things:
It's important that the elected officials view public works investment not as a short-term stimulus for stimulus' stake, or a vehicle for politically driven job creation. The goal should be to create the best and broadest necessary and permanent infrastructure for the most responsible minimal price needed to build it. Being careful here is necessary because this is borrowed, finite money; it could become prohibitively expensive for the feds to borrow as debt levels skyrocket. Spending is not investing.
Putting new but quickly obsolete computers in already well-funded schools, for example, isn't a wise use of borrowed funding. But drastically cutting transit commute times in New York (and similar road commutes elsewhere) would be. Similarly, funding regular maintenance work that states and cities should pay for isn't a wise investment. Federal money should pay for replacing obsolete assets and making well-thought-out improvements.