CALPIRG: Don’t Waste the Stimulus on Highway Expansion

Winner of CALPIRG’s 2008 "Save Traffic" Contest

Yesterday, the California Pubic Interest Research Group, aka CALPIRG, released Spending the Stimulus, How California Can Put Thousands Back to Work & Jumpstart a 21st Century Transportation System,

a report urging Caltrans and Governor Schwarzenegger not to waste the $2.5 billion in stimulus funds on projects that would have the least amount of economic benefit to California residents and would expand the state’s car dependency. CALPIRG uses economics, transportation planning and public opinion to argue that highway expansion is the wrong way for California to spend it’s stimulus funds.

From the economic standpoint, the report urges investment in transit, bicycle, pedestrian, and Fix-It-First projects as the ones that will put the most money into the pockets of California residents.  Because so much money is spent on property acquisition and supplies, highway expansion projects are the one that will stimulate the local economy the least.  It also points out that while many people refer to federal dollars as "highway" dollars there is no limit to the types of transportation projects that can be funded by stimulus dollars.

CALPIRG also points to the savings that transit users and non-motorized commuters see versus those that use transit.  Commuters can save near $10,000 dollars a year by abandoning their cars along with the maintenance, insurance, gasoline and purchase costs of an automobile.

Lastly, Calpirg notes that the public overwhelmingly supports expanding transit.  A poll released in January by the National Association of Realtors, showed that 80 percent of Americans support expanding transit over expanding highways when it comes to spending federal dollars.

If we leave projects such as the 405 HOV Lanes project, there are still plenty of ready-to-go projects that would meet Calpirg’s project criteria such as the Wilshire Bus Only Lanes project, adding 3o miles to the Los Angeles River Bicycle Path and backfilling the state’s backlog of highway and bridge "Fix-It-First" project.

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