Obama’s transportation plan: Update 2

New Urban Network

Christopher Leinberger, writing at the New Republic website, says Obama’s $50 billion transportation plan will have three positive effects.

“The first benefit of investing in transportation infrastructure investment is the direct job growth the economy needs. The thousands of miles of roads, rail, and runways that will be repaired and built will result in tens of thousands of jobs this year and next.

“The second benefit is these investments will be leveraged with private dollars which should multiply the impact of the proposed $50 billion of public investment by a factor of three to five times. The private money will help insure the investment is smart–private investors are looking for a financial payback, not a political payback. The risk will be spread and private investors will insure it is prudent.

“The third benefit is probably the most important because transportation drives economic development. Today, there is huge pent-up demand for higher density development in human-scaled urban places. These places have price premiums that are 40 percent to 200 percent higher than the auto-oriented suburban development–the kind of development that has driven the economy into its Great Recession ditch. Transportation investment in repairing existing road networks, building new and repairing existing rail and bus transit, bike trails, and walking infrastructure will encourage the walkable urban development the market is demanding.”

John Norquist, president and CEO of the Congress for the New Urbanism, takes a less optimistic view:

“I credit Obama for wanting to reduce oil subsidies,” he told New Urban Network in an email. “The assumption by Smart Growth America that most of the highway dollars will be devoted to repair is wishful thinking. The phrase ‘fix it first’ is poll tested and reflects the general public’s preference for repairing existing roads. However, the Road Lobby is on to this and has redefined ‘repair’, ‘fixing’ and ‘rebuilding’ to include lane additions, ramp enlargement and even property condemnation. Wisconsin DOT has already declared their intent to use the new stimulus money for enlarging the Zoo Interchange in Milwaukee. The project includes new lanes, enlarged ramps, and significant property condemnation. It’s definitely not a ‘fix it first’ project.”