City Infrastructure with Craig Lawrence – Economics Explained ep.26

At this stage, the official line is that Queensland’s local government elections will still go ahead on Saturday 28 March despite the coronavirus threat, although the Queensland Electoral Commissioner has told ABC Radio “Things could change…” (see this ABC News report). Last week, when I was more confident the council elections would proceed than I am now, I recorded an interview on the economics of city infrastructure with my colleague Craig Lawrence, Managing Director of Lytton Advisory, who I’ve worked with on a range of projects in Australia and the Middle East. I thought that a couple of the major projects being advanced by the incumbent Brisbane City Council such as the Brisbane CBD-Kangaroo Point pedestrian bridge and the conversion of Victoria Park Golf Course into a public park would provide conversation fodder. We also ended up discussing the economics of the state government’s troubled Cross River Rail project. So please consider checking out my latest Economics Explained episode on City Infrastructure with Craig Lawrence.

Use these (approximate) timestamps to jump right to the highlights:

  • 1:00 – conversation starts with me asking Craig about a recent post (A $7 Crossing) he wrote about the economic viability of Brisbane City Council’s proposed
    $190 million Kangaroo Point to Brisbane City pedestrian bridge
  • 12:00 – discussion of external benefits (including wider economic benefits) relevant in assessment of city infrastructure projects
  • 18:00 – discussion of agglomeration effects and benefits of active transport
  • 23:30 – Craig delivers his assessment of the economic viability of the Brisbane City to Kangaroo Point pedestrian bridge – “at the moment, there’s not enough evidence on the benefit side, to be able to justify the project “
  • 26:00 – further discussion of wider economic benefits – Craig notes a rule of thumb is that they should only be 15-20% on top of private benefits
  • 32:00 – I commence a conversation with Craig about Brisbane City Council’s un-costed redevelopment of Victoria Park Golf Course into a public park and how one might assess its economic viability
  • 43:20 – beginning of discussion on Cross River Rail, a controversial new subway system in Brisbane which was originally costed at $5 billion but may end up costing $12 billion, a mega project which Craig has previously been sceptical about (Cross River Rail Dice Roll?)

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