What was especially interesting was to hear him mention that he was the one that wanted to look at how much roads cost and thus authorized the study to index how much roads cost in Texas. What did they find? No road pays for itself. None. Curiously, that study or any mention of it exists no where on the TxDOT site. The only memory of it existing is on the blogs that picked it up after it showed up again in a newsletter. We covered this back in 2007 and notice that the pages that once kept this information front and center at TxDOT are gone.
It seems like information like this would be extremely powerful in pointing out everywhere around the country that essentially our way of funding expansion of roads now is broken. And even though he's not one of my favorite people for many reasons, Krusee made a basic point that I think is important even if we probably don't agree on the outcomes. We have enough money in the system. We just need to start allocating it correctly.
Over the past 50 years, Krusee argued, the federal government was using tax money that came by and large from cities to subsidize roads to areas without access otherwise. "City dwellers have subsidized the land purchases and the development costs out in the suburbs," said Krusee. What's more, the gas tax, which city dwellers pay when driving on city roads, but which goes to freeways largely outside of urban cores, is "a huge transfer of wealth from the cities to the suburbs to build these rings."This admission is important, and it points the way towards sustainability for the whole urban economic system. Once we realize that we can't keep expanding roads(or sewer, electrical systems which have similar costs to the roads in terms of return according to Scott Bernstein) further and further out, and that the goals of the interstate system have been co-opted by suburban development forces for fiscally and environmentally unsustainable practices, the more of an effect we'll have on changing every citizens fortunes, not just those who build sprawl.
This also brings me to a point that Scott Bernstein made at the conference, that in these hard economic times, we need to really focus on how these investments will create value and wealth for people and cities in hard economic times over the long run. As my college professor Shane Davies always said, if you want to make change, you "hit people in the pocketbook".