Region Forward Blog

Area of agreement: We need a better way to fund prioritize and develop transportation

May 23, 2011


We harp on this subject because it’s important. And thankfully we’re not alone in doing so. As funding sources like the gas tax become increasingly insufficient for funding transportation folks are realizing that something needs to has to change. The devil’s in the details of course.

Efficiently and sufficiently funding transportation is a matter of economic competitiveness. It’s not about flashy high-speed rail systems (because unfortunately we don’t have them here) or other common targets of scrutiny. It’s about keeping our transit systems roadways bike lanes/trails and bridges from falling apart. If they aren’t in operation or aren’t running at their full potential there’s an economic loss that results. Simple as that.

Robert Puentes senior fellow at Brookings’ Metropolitan Policy Program has an expansive piece in today’s Wall Street Journal outlining why America needs to refocus investment on transportation infrastructure (as we noted back in December 2010 the last large-scale national surface transportation initiative that the United States undertook was the Interstate Highway System which began in the 1950s) and how to correct our current misguided policy.

Noting the severe economic losses that result from worsening traffic congestion in major metro areas (which drive American economic growth) Puentes recommends prioritizing maintenance over building new roads greening the nation’s transportation system promoting transportation-related innovation and further integrating land-use and transportation planning to maximize efficiency.

Representative John Mica (R-FL) currently serving as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee also opined on the subject today. Mica writing in Politico took an expectedly more partisan tone than Puentes and emphasized the efficiency side of the equation and the need to “do more with less.” And this isn’t an out of the mainstream stance: even The Transport Politic a staunch advocate for increased transportation investment is pushing for efficiency and performance accountability to be tied to funding in this economically constrained environment.

Nevertheless Mica acknowledged the connection between transportation and economic growth and stated that continuing to operate under temporary extensions of the expired SAFETEA-LU bill is “unacceptable.” (Though as Streetsblog reports experts aren’t holding their breath for a comprehensive transportation bill this year.)

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