Tuesday, June 12, 2012

China's Airport Expansion

James Fallows has a post with a number of links regarding China's aviation ambitions. One link to highlight is the story about the remarkable growth of the number of Chinese airports. The Telegraph reports that China will build 70 new airports and expand 100 more in the next few years. In contrast, the US has built two new airports over the past 30 or so years (Denver and Indianapolis) and many airports have expanded, but very few have added new runways. This does not mean that the US should go on an airport expansion binge to keep up with China. (The logic that the US has to keep up with China is the main argument for high speed rail investment in the US, at least according to Andy Kunz, the CEO of US High Speed Rail, and America 2050.)  The rapid expansion of Chinese airports reflects the poor quality of existing facilities (if there are any), rapidly growing demand for services and lots of speculative construction of currently empty airports. The key lesson from Chinese infrastructure investment is that the country is investing widely in many different technologies, and it is doing so because the infrastructure needs are widespread. Transportation planners and officials in the US should keep in mind the US needs for transport investment are very different than China's.

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