How Come We Can Have 40,000 miles Of Interstate, But Not 2,000 Miles Of Border Fence?

Article author: 
Ed Rubenstein
Article publisher:
Article date: 
1 October 2004
Article category: 
National News
Article Body: 

...over a 10-mile stretch of the border near San Diego, arrests of illegal immigrants have plummeted from about 25,000 per year three years ago to 3,000 per year today. Violent crimes have virtually come to a halt in that area, according to the San Diego PD. [Valerie Alvord, "Border fence plan runs into a barrier," USA Today, April 19, 2004]

The reason? The government built a fence. Or more precisely, a complex of two 16-foot high steel fences separated by a wide road...

So why not fence off the entire border? This is what the project might cost:

  • The southern border is 1,951 miles long.
  • The 14-mile San Diego fence cost $25 million, or $1.7 million per mile. [Source: James Goldsborough, San Diego Union-Tribune, February 19, 2004].
  • The security fence Israel is building on the West Bank also costs about $1.7 million per mile. [Source: ParaPundit.]

Conclusion: At $1.7 million per mile, the entire U.S.-Mexican border could be sealed off for $3.3 billion dollars.

Juxtaposed to other infrastructure projects, this border fence seems downright puny. The Federal interstate highway system, for example, is about 46,000 miles long. A 1,951-mile border fence would certainly not be more difficult to build than the equivalent length of eight-lane highway. All told there are about 4 million miles of public streets and highways in the U.S. [Bureau of Transportation Statistics, National Transportation Statistics 2003, March 2004. Table 1-5.]

And we could easily afford a fence. For perspective, remember that 3.3 billion dollars represents just:

  • 3.2 percent of the $104 billion spent on highway construction annually. [Source: National Transportation Statistics 2003, Table 3-29a.]
  • 0.7 percent of the defense budget for FY2004 ($452 billion).
  • 0.14 percent of the entire U.S. Federal budget for FY2004 ($2.3 trillion). [Source: OMB, Budget of the U.S. Government FY2005, Historical Tables, Table 8-4.]