Thursday, September 29, 2005

Eastport: Shipyard Or Junkyard?

Nancy Raye has written a Bangor Metro column that looks to the infrastructure needs of Washington County, Maine. It does a good job of pointing out the limitations of tax incentives to lure businesses to Down East Maine when the transportation network in the region is much worse than in Southern Maine.

She advocates more infrastructure spending in Northern Maine, and laments the fact that the politically powerful Southern Maine won't allow it, due to the fact that Eastport could potentially become a major rival to Portland.

I think she has unwittingly made the case for reducing government involvement in transportation infrastructure. Everyone in the state is taxed, and the lion's share of the spending is in counties that are more affluent. Imagine if the folks in the southern part of the state actually needed to improve their infrastructure based on profitability rather than political influence in Augusta and Washington, D.C. I think a few things would happen.

Fewer roads would be built in general, and urban sprawl would be abated greatly. More railways would be built, because any investor would rather invest in the long-term durability of railways. Maine's environment would benefit greatly. And areas like Eastport would suddenly seem to be more competitive with Portland and Boston for trade with Europe. If only the government would get out of the way.



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