Obama’s transportation investment

Robert Steuteville, New Urban Network

My initial reaction to President Obama’s $50 billion transportation plan was skeptical. The plan “to invest in rebuilding 150,000 miles of roads, maintaining 4,000 miles of rail line and rehabilitating 150 miles of airport runway,” according to the Washington Post, appeared to be heavily weighted toward highways. If you do the math, the rail miles amount to 2.6 percent of the highway miles.

A blog at Smart Growth America offers more positive view. The plan, they believe, will focus on maintainence rather than new roads and will therefore support smart growth:

“We also learned that investing in investing in systems that offer choice—the ability to save money by driving less—helps make families and cities economically resilient.

“Thus, the President’s initiative builds on the actual repairs made last year, and on what we learned from them.

“Accelerating these crucial investments, as the President proposes to do, makes sense so we can enjoy the benefits of repaired highways and convenient transportation as quickly as possible. We also need to front-load the financing. By cutting subsidies for oil, this plan will pay for investments in what we want by cutting things we don’t: reliance on oil and its resulting pollution.

“That kind of growth is very smart.”

James Howard Kunstler, of course, has a different spin.

“Can we talk? At this point, money spent on anything to do with commercial aviation amounts to pounding sand down a rat hole. In ten years (or maybe a lot fewer) there will no more commercial aviation. Any new highway-building or highway expansion is likewise an exercise in futility. Look, we need to get the passenger rail system fixed in a big way and in a big hurry. And we need local public transit to go along with it. End of story.”