Saturday, February 28, 2009

Roads & Bridges

Everyone remembers the constant repeating of Roads and Bridges during the campaign and during the process for the stimulus package. I'm pretty sure when he was discussing this he meant existing roads and bridges instead of new ones. Well this wasn't so clear to the road warriors:
"The President's strong support for roads and bridges serves him well. Despite the controversy over the Economic Recovery package, 94% of Americans supported the President's call to increase infrastructure investments. Roads and bridges rank #2 in importance among infrastructure priorities for the American people. And while Congress only provided 3.6% of the Economic Recovery funds for roads and bridges, the President's consistent promotion of highway infrastructure made his views crystal clear.
I think its funny that when roads and bridges are discussed, people on the road side automatically think highways. It's like a dog whistle but in this case it might not mean what they think it does, which to us should be heartening. There are also plenty of complaints about tolling and the feeling that there won't be enough money to build the highway system all over again.
  1. The proposal implies that the 87-year old budgetary mechanism known as "contract authority" be deleted from the budget. Without contract authority, multi-year highway projects cannot be fully-funded.
  2. There is no mention of President Obama's support for roads and bridges anywhere in DOT's budget framework.
  3. "Road pricing" is discussed as an option in the budget framework, despite Secretary LaHood's opposition to tolling existing roads.
  4. There is no room in the budget for any substantial increase in highway funding, despite the President's recent call for investment levels that would rival the funding for construction of the Interstate Highway System.
Perhaps Mr. Obama tricked us during the election with the whole roads and bridges comment on repeat. I for one would welcome the trick if it meant we are changing the way we're funding new capacity and alternative transportation modes. We will see.


BruceMcF said...

A shift of road funding priorities away from building new roads and bridges and toward fixing the ones we have would be twice smart ... it would starve the beast, and at the same time it would meet the concerns of the kinds of people I see in class, who want the roads in the towns where they live fixed up, as opposed to new road construction.

Using the fact that the current funding formula discourages maintenance at the standard of newly built roads creates this loop where crappy existing roads get people upset, politicians promise to spend money on roads, and the bulk of that money goes to feed the beast. And then, the road maintenance bill is even higher and there is even less money to go around per lane mile to keep the damn things in good repair.

jon said...

lucky us in portland, the current 6-lane I-5 columbia river bridge is to be replaced by a 12 lane behemoth at a cost of $4 billion. and of course there arent even any freeways in the portland area over 6 lanes wide.

the columbia river crossing project has become a complete joke

arcady said...

BruceMcF: it's basically a pyramid scheme of sorts, like all too much about the whole suburban enterprise. And unfortunately it's taken a few decades for the thing to start collapsing.

Robert said...


You say that the I-5 bridge is a joke. Is it a joke to you and us -- transit advocates -- or is it a joke to the Portland mainstream?

I'm curious to know how far Portland's sustainable living movement has gone.


jon said...

its a joke to us transit advocates and advocates of not overbuilding highways. columbia river crossing is pure 1960s sunbelt autopian thinking.

they are overbuilding the bridge and then trying to manage it against traffic and sprawl. good luck with that. of course it was stacked against any sensible bridge, only the portland mayor and head of the oregon regional govt supported a smaller bridge every other govt officals involved including all the highway departments on both sides were pushing the mega bridge.

yeah there will be a light rail line and path across the bridge but those are just a way to sugarcoat a mega bridge.

what many of us against the mega bridge wanted was a new local traffic bridge to handle many of the trips that only go one or two exits on the freeway. you have independant street networks onthe portland OR side, the vancouver WA side and on hayden island, and the only way now to get between these is by the I-5 freeway.