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What is driving up the cost of highway construction?

The cost of building one mile of interstate highway in the 1980s was three times what it cost in the 1960s, adjusted for inflation, Leah Brooks of The George Washington University and Zachary Liscow of Yale University find in a paper prepared for the 2019 Municipal Finance Conference at Brookings. Brooks and Liscow marshal historical data from the Federal Highway Administration to try to explain these spending patterns. They rule out a few popular explanations: highway planners did not leave the most geographically challenging routes to do last. Changing costs for construction material or labor don't explain the increase in spending over time. Neither do the costs of acquiring rights of way or the costs of planning. And there were no large changing of federal interstate highway construction standards over time.