Obama: The Days of “Building Sprawl Forever” Are Over

obama_fl.jpgObama in Ft. Myers

This is encouraging.

On the stump in Fort Myers, Florida
to campaign for the stimulus bill, President Obama took a detour from
his well-worn "roads and bridges" infrastructure spiel to deliver some
brief remarks on transit and land use. Obama’s answer came in response
to a city council member who said she wanted funding for commuter rail
in the recovery package. C-Span has the video (check the 55 minute mark) and Transportation for America has the transcript:

It’s imagining new transportation systems. I’d like to
see high speed rail where it can be constructed. I would like for us to
invest in mass transit because potentially that’s energy efficient. And
I think people are a lot more open now to thinking regionally…

The days where we’re just building sprawl forever, those days are
over. I think that Republicans, Democrats, everybody… recognizes that’s
not a smart way to design communities. So we should be using this money
to help spur this sort of innovative thinking when it comes to
transportation.

That will make a big difference.

Before you get too carried away, though, head over to Salon for a recap of Obama’s pitch yesterday in Elkhart, Indiana, which included this sop to highway enthusiasts:

He
promised his plan would create or save 80,000 jobs in Indiana, and that
infrastructure funding would improve "roads like US 31 here in Indiana
that Hoosiers count on … and I know that a new overpass downtown
would make a big difference for businesses and families right here in
Elkhart."

The US 31 expansion
is what you might call a sprawl project. Obama’s transportation
platform may still amount to a Rorschach blot, but his comments in Fort
Myers can’t be retracted. With the stimulus bill about to enter conference committee,
having POTUS on the record opposing sprawl should bolster efforts to
maximize transit funding and limit the use of highway funds to expand
road capacity. Time to keep the pressure on.

  • Damien Goodmon

    Is it possible that the transportation solution to Elkhart, Indiana might just possibly, maybe, in some way possible be different than the transportation solution to Miami?

  • AC

    The US-31 expansion you link to is for Carmel and Hamilton County, which is suburban area north of Indianapolis and Marion County. Elkahart is around 140 miles north of Carmel, so the overpass work referenced by the President has absolutely nothing to do with what the project you have linked.

    I enjoy your blog tremendously and am, by no means, a supporter of the stimulus package or the left, but posting correct facts remains vital for any discussion.

    If it is any recourse, Carmel and the northern suburbs of Indianapolis are the absolute definition of suburban sprawl and are in definite need of a light rail, which has been thrown about for well over a decade (when I lived in the city).

    Elkhart, on the other hand, has a relatively centralized populous that really needs more accessibility in getting goods to market, so any improvements to 31 up there, would be a great improvement.

  • There is a sad calculus that I think keeps every party and neraly every national politician on the build-more-highways track:

    -Suburbia is a living arrangement with no future.
    -If you stop entitlements for this dying way of life, you will be blamed for its demise and your political career (and party) will be run out of office.
    -If you merely advocate for an end to suburban entitlements, you will be blamed for the demise of the suburban way of life.
    -Therefore, suburbia will retain its entitlements at all costs, until the bitter end.

    The same can be said for industrial agriculture subsidies.

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