If a Transportation Engineer Were President

gridlocksam.jpgA bit of pre-Election Day fun: Here’s a mock state-of-the-union speech drafted for the next President by "Gridlock" Sam Schwartz, the former New York City Traffic Commissioner who created the word . Combining some ideas from Barack Obama’s platform with some that no candidate would utter during a presidential campaign, he lays out a plan for infrastructure investment and how to pay for it:

The National Infrastructure Bank will assemble a portfolio of projects
for investment by the public and private sector. I will follow the
formula developed by the renowned economist Felix Rohatyn so that any
project seeking over $75 million in federal support would be required
to submit a proposal to the bank. The submission would include the
contribution to be made by the state and local governments, user fees
and a plan for maintenance. The bank would then decide to fund the
project outright, or through credit guarantees for state bonds or loans
against future revenues from user fees and other sound financial
strategies.

The federal government will favor cities that introduce congestion pricing. A recent study
by the Brookings Institute found that more than $100 billion could be
raised annually by road pricing in the 98 largest metropolitan areas.
We will adopt the previous administration’s call for a dedicated Metro
Mobility (MM) Program (pdf)
for metropolitan areas with populations greater than 500,000. These are
the battle grounds for congestion, fuel inefficiencies and production
of greenhouse gases.

The gas tax is a dinosaur (pun intended). As long as it remains a
flat tax at 18.4 cents per gallon and gas consumption decreases (a goal
of my administration) it will be a dwindling source of revenue. I
propose that the tax, like most other taxes, be indexed against the
sale price. This way, when foreign influences raise the price of gas,
some revenue will be returned to the taxpayers in public works
projects. I propose a 5 cent/gallon increase over present levels, the
first increase since 1993, to generate about $10 billion annually. But,
if the price of gas goes down, and I hope it does, the tax will go down
accordingly.

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