Back in November, the New York Times' Sunday Week in Review section posed an interesting question in an article by Louis Uchitelle. Is the era of big public works over?
Are we "entering the superproject void" where "the future of huge is uncertain," as the headline asked?
The article leans in favor of suggesting that even Obama stimulus projects are puny in scale.
One reason is financial. The Times article carried the adjoining chart from Moody's with it, showing that during the past 60 years, public works spending has consistently been more than two percent of gross domestic product in the United States.
The second reason is need. I think the challenges of climate change will require engineering on a large scale, including a reinvention of mass transportation, energy production, and waste disposal. A regional system of solutions for any of these projects could prompt large mega-projects.
So I think they're coming.
And I think the NIMBY wars will be right along after the projects are proposed. I, for one, see projects such as wind farms as relatively benign, and if the fuss over them is any indication, the communications and community relations professionals of the next half-century will have their hands full.