Stimulus Package on Track to Perpetuate Transpo Status Quo

A front page story in yesterday’s Washington Post
has the most thorough analysis to date of how infrastructure spending
may be divvied up in an Obama stimulus package. Nothing is set in
stone, but the dividing lines are increasingly clear: States and their
DOTs are emphasizing road projects, while cities are looking for ways
to reduce congestion. The emphasis on getting shovels in the ground
quickly will also skew spending, says Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak:

"The quickest things we can do may not be the ones that have the most
significant long-term impact on the green economy," he said. "Unless we
push a transit investment, this will end up being a stimulus package
that rebalances our transportation strategy toward roads and away from
[what] we need to get off our addiction to oil."

Mayors say there would be a better chance for a long-term impact if
the money were focused on metropolitan areas where investments could
make the most difference in reducing congestion and lessening
dependence on cars. They doubt that will happen if infrastructure
funding goes directly to state capitals.

As it stands, Congress, wanting to keep things simple, plans to
disburse the money under existing formulas — funding for roads and
bridges will go to state governments, while money for public transit
will go to the local agencies that receive transit funding. 

Yes, there will be another window of
opportunity to overhaul the existing formula and other bad habits with
next year’s big transportation bill. For now, however, the lack of
vision is startling. As Smart Growth America’s David Goldberg says in
the Post, "It doesn’t have the power to stir men’s souls." Some signal
that the nation is moving in a new direction is in order.

Even in New York, a land of mega-projects where the regional transit agency has immense needs, the MTA is asking for nothing more ambitious than station rehabs and accelerated track replacement.

So what would a visionary infrastructure stimulus for New York look like? How about physically separated, radial BRT lines connecting the outer boroughs to Manhattan (or at least implementing the BRT pilot plan
that’s been public for more than two years). Or an accelerated and
expanded build-out of the protected bike path network. If there was
ever a time to think big, now is the moment.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Hope Springs Eternal for American Transpo Policy

|
In case you missed the broadcast on Friday, watch this episode of NOW. Told mostly from the perspective of Charlotte’s Pat McCrory, the Republican mayor who brought light rail to North Carolina’s biggest city, the show hits just about every major transportation issue to surface during the stimulus bill debate. Federal policies that discriminate against […]

Streetsblog Capitol Hill Q&A: Blumenauer Talks Economic Recovery

|
On the issue of clean transportation, from transit to bike paths to water quality, few members of Congress are as knowledgeable or active as Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). Chairman of the Congressional Bicycle Caucus and founder of the new Livable Communities Task Force, the Portland lawmaker is on the front lines of Washington’s biggest infrastructure […]

Why Stimulus Money Should Go to Cities, Not States

|
I spoke earlier today to David Burwell, founder of the Surface Transportation Policy Project and a strategic consultant with the Transportation for America campaign, about how the stimulus package is shaping up for transportation projects, why it might go wrong, and what can be done to set it on the right track. "He’s putting his […]
STREETSBLOG USA

Former US DOT Bosses Call for Mileage Tax and Congestion Fees

|
Bottlenecks cripple our productivity, and transitioning among modes of transportation remains a convoluted and inefficient process nationwide, with some major cities being the few exceptions. Concerns about the environmental impact of these inefficiencies further highlight the need for systems that offer quick, interconnected and efficient means for transportation. The message today from two Republican-appointed former […]

Congress, Associated Press, Argue Whether Stimulus Actually Stimulated Anything

|
The Associated Press published a piece today that, after putting "economists and statisticians" to work on analyzing $21 billion in federal stimulus money for transportation, reached a volatile conclusion: (Photo: WBEZ) Local unemployment rates rose and fell regardless of how much stimulus money Washington poured out for transportation, raising questions about Obama’s argument that more […]
STREETSBLOG USA

NTPP: Infrastructure Investment Will Only Boost the Economy If Done Right

|
At the federal level, we’re nearly flat out of transportation money and spending most of what’s left to stimulate highway construction jobs. It’s a double whammy that could present a bleak future for federally-funded transportation projects. A new report by the Bipartisan Policy Center’s National Transportation Policy Project (NTPP) challenges the country to envision a […]