Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Light Reading about Heavy Matters

By Ariel

Recently a bunch of interesting articles have crossed my path that I thought I would share for a variety of reasons; the article on Philadelphia, Panama and Shipping will appeal to those of you who, like Heller and me, are obsessed with all things Philadelphia while the article on Paris should appeal to a few more of you.

I suppose I should no longer be surprised that Philebrity brings in some interesting news for the dorks in all of us (it does a surprisingly good job on politics big and small around Philly). However I have to thank them for finding the following article about a shipping agreement between Philadelphia Ports and Panama. This is big news. Rendell clashed publicly with Corzine across the river (and with tons of environmentalists and other skeptics) to dredge the bottom of the Delaware to widen it by some five feet. Philadelphia has historically thrived when its ports have, as an Economy League report notes.

Philadelphia’s ports rank sixth in the U.S. in imported cargo value and 22nd in export value. The Delaware River ports employ 4,056 workers who earn $326 million and generate $1.3 billion in economic output annually.

Port activity in Greater Philadelphia supports 12,121 jobs, creates $772 million in income and generates $2.4 billion in economic output annually.

But Philadelphia’s ports are relatively shallow for modern container shipping. The deal reported in the JOC suggests that Philadelphia Ports are proactively taking advantage of this upcoming new depth.

I am skeptical that the added benefit of this dredging (and this added volume of shipping signaled by this deal) will out weight not only the environmental damage done by the dredging, but what the $379 million could have been spent on instead. While talks of “missed opportunity costs” are not always applicable in big projects such as these (that amount of money would never be spent on housing for instance, unfortunately), one really can only hope that this deal brings in lots of ships if only to justify all the work Rendell put into getting the dredging.

In other news, one more bone for me to pick with the French; they turn to architects to re-imagine their city, in this piece in the NYT Magazine. While architects are indeed great at “visioning.” etc., many of their answers to Paris’s plans smack of physical determinism and the idea that great buildings will lift the smallest soul. This is not to say that great architecture can’t do great things, its just that the plans covered here seem to ignore market realities or are just too theatrical in concept. It could very easily be that I am full of professional jealousy that architects and not planners are planning Paris, and I would love to have such grand visions for Philly be as seriously considered here as they are there.

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