Monday, December 29, 2008
I Voted for Obama for Change We Can Believe In, Not to Give State DOTs $750 Million Dollars to Build New Highways
UPDATE: Here's the good news. But here's more bad news:
Washington Post, 'Green' Jobs Compete for Stimulus Aid, Obama Weighs Them Vs. Traditional Projects
Washington Post, Stimulus, Jobs, Billions: Obama’s Huge Challenge
Bloomberg, Rail Takes Back Seat as States Target Obama Stimulus for Roads
CHRISTMAS WAS HERE and we're vacationing in Greenwich Village, so I've been sitting on this post for a week. But something has to be done. Our worst fears — that the trillion dollars in Obama economic incentive money would go to the usual suspects, the state DOTs who only know one way to spend it, building bridges and highways to nowhere while subsidizing more carbon-burning sprawl — are coming to pass. Reports are trickling out here and there that almost all the money is going to highway construction, when it should be going to mass transit, sustainable communities, and other green construction for the future.
When President-Elect Barack Obama announced he was planning the largest new investment in national infrastructure since “the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s,” he probably didn’t mean that the U.S. should literally start building highways as if it’s the 1950s all over again.
Even Click and Clack, the Car Talk Guys, know we don't want to continue more of the same. In their last show, Ray called for a national gas tax, and suggested the Big Three of Detroit should become train manufacturers. (If Click and Clack agree, maybe my train idea wasn't so crazy after all.) They're quoted at the blog Hub and Spokes:
"I think it's an idea whose time has come," Ray said. "I know most politicians have been too wussy to do it, but I think the logic of raising the gasoline tax right now is unassailable.
"Gas is less than two bucks a gallon. There's never been a better time to do this. If we added a 50-cent national, gasoline tax right now, and gas cost $2.50 a gallon, would that be the end of the world? Hardly.
"This new tax would generate between 50 and 100 billion dollars every year for the treasury. That money could be used to help rebuild our crumbling roads and bridges, and develop new technologies for more fuel-efficient cars... further decreasing demand for oil. This is a way for us to get on the wagon, and stop sending money to countries that don't like us. We could become energy independent.
"The other thing that the gas tax revenue could fund is high-speed-train infrastructure between major cities. And who would build all of the new high-tech, high-speed trains we'd need? GM and Ford! We'd help them start a mass-transit division, convert some of those factories from building inefficient gas hogs to building high-speed trains."
What do you think? Is Ray on to a genius idea that will point our country towards a sustainable transportation future? Or does he have his headlight firmly implanted in his tailpipe? Is it even a political possibility?
Says our humble co-host, "I'm sick of people whining about a lousy 50-cent-a-gallon tax on gasoline! I think its time has come, and I call on all non-wussy politicians to stand with me, because our country needs us."
Ray's right. There has never been a time when the public would as readily accept a gas tax. The idea that Detroit should been things like trains and streetcars becomes more and more popular (look at the support the idea gets in the comments section of their website). We need new thinking, and if we're going to spend money we need a better return on our investment than more sprawl. It's Dumb Growth like this that got us in a lot of the mess we're in today.
The next few months are some of the most important months in US history.
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I am deeply concerned about the direction of the distribution of the funds. Apparently there is a use-it-or-lose it clause that requires states to come forward with "shovel-ready" projects. Even that metaphor, conjures up the old ways of doing things!
Posted by: Jim Meredith at Jan 4, 2009 12:34:15 PM