- Thomas Friedman took a trip to China and is depressed at the state of our transportation infrastructure. Going abroad is usually the best way to notice just how bad it’s become here. Friedman also wants to raise the gas tax, which I think is a great idea with gas prices so low; average gallon price across the county is now less than half of its peak a few months ago. The money could be used to pay for alternative energy projects, or even just pay for the stimulus package.
- Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman wants the stimulus money given to states, arguing that an increase in federal spending won’t do much if it’s accompanied by a matching decrease in state spending. The states do need some help with medicaid and budget gaps – our state government is going to have to cut $5 billion – but I would be very disappointed if the final call for infrastructure spending ends up going through the state capitols first. As Erica Barnett points out, to states, “infrastructure” means roads.
- At the same time, some members of Congress are pushing to increase mass transit’s share of the stimulus cash. James Oberstar, who heads the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee wants to increase the transit share for the $85 billion or so that will be spent on transportation in the stimulus package. Chuck Schumer wants $20 billion for MTA in his state, and John Kerry has been calling for spending on high-speed rail.
- Capitol Hill is getting set for light rail construction to start.
- Light Rail openned in Phoenix over the weekend, and things went smoothly. I look forward to the same thing happening this summer.
I am less worried that the stimulus money will all go to highway projects than I was last time I wrote about the topic. The $12 billion number the Oberstar article states could be spent on transit would be a massive increase, since currently only about $2 billion a year is spent on by the FTA capital projects. For a comparison, the capital costs of all light rail in Prop. 1 package passed in November was about $7 billion. Still, there’s no way to know how much will get spent here, so it’s worth letting your congressional delegation know that you want transit in the stimulus package.
Photo by Oran, from the STB flickr pool.