ECONOMICS OF PUBLIC INVESTMENT IN INLAND NAVIGATION: UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

The objective of this paper is to address the following questions: 1. Does present legislation require a proper accounting of national gains and losses for navigation projects? 2. Are Congress and the public in fact being given a proper account of navigation benefits and costs? 3. If not, are the proposed remedies such as the repeal of Section 7(a) likely to prove effective? 4. What are some alternative remedies? Addressing the first question, the analysis reveals ample support for the position that present legislation is not the culprit to the extent that it is often regarded to be. In other words, present legislation requires a proper accounting of project benefits and costs to the nation. At worst, one could say that the legislation is not as clearly put as it might be. Questions 2 and 3 are addressed by means of case studies. The planning documents submitted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in justification of two large proposed investments are examined: the $400 million replacement of Locks and Dam No. 26 on the Mississippi River and the $1.6 billion Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. These two projects are uniquely suited for the purpose at hand for several reasons: (1) both remain in the forefront of the current debate on project evaluation procedures; (2) both typify Corps' navigation investments; (3) both proposals have a long history and thus a series of planning documents which permit a historical overview of cost and benefit measurement practices; and (4) both projects are currently embroiled in litigation and thus are receiving considerable attention in Washington and elsewhere. The case studies, provide a basis for addressing the final question. One can retrospectively ask how proposed remedies might have altered the planning documents for the two projects. It is argued here that concerns for changing legislative criteria or discount rates or adding additional objectives, while appealing do not address the real problem. The real problem is that the accuracy and reliability of project impact estimations leave much to be described. Although some suggestions are offered in this regard and other options are discussed, more analysis is necessary to form definite conclusions.

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  • Corporate Authors:

    American Society of Traffic and Transportation

    547 West Jackson Boulevard
    Chicago, IL  USA  60606
  • Authors:
    • Carroll, J L
    • Rao, S
  • Publication Date: 1978

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  • Accession Number: 00178902
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Source Agency: American Society of Traffic and Transportation
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jul 29 1978 12:00AM