Infrastructure is in the news as policymakers face a deadline to pass a new highway bill. President Obama visited the Tappan Zee Bridge yesterday and said that “rebuilding America … shouldn’t be a partisan issue,” and then cast blame on the Republicans.
Congress is currently debating options to solve the “transportation cliff.” Broadly, the federal government spends more on highways and transit than it collects in fuel tax revenue, which has depleted the Highway Trust Fund. One reason for the imbalance is the federal government’s inability to control costs on projects. Federal transportation projects frequently go over budget.
Recent news reports have zeroed in on Washington’s next “cliff,” the “transportation cliff” that is expected to happen when the federal Highway Trust Fund runs out of money sometime this summer. Most of those articles have a hidden agenda: to increase spending for transit even though transit now gets 20 percent of federal surface transport dollars but carries little more than 1 percent of the travel carried by automobiles (about 55 billion passenger miles by transit vs. 4.3 trillion passenger miles in cars and light trucks). This post will explain some of the politics of the transportation cliff.
Chris Edwards testified yesterday to the Senate Finance Committee regarding federal highway and transit funding. Some thoughts.
With the expiration of the current federal highway bill in a few months, the infrastructure issue is heating up. Newspapers are ginning up interest with stories about deficient and falling down bridges.
Oh dear, yet another scare story about falling-down bridges. A Washington Post headline today in the hardcopy is “63,000 Bridges Structurally Deficient, U.S. Says.”
My op-ed in today’s New York Times has prompted numerous critical comments on theNYT website. Let me address some of them.
The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) argues that a 0.7 percent increase in annual transit ridership in 2013 is proof that Americans want more “investments” in transit–by which the group means more federal funding. However, a close look at the actual data reveals something entirely different.
From the Wall Street Journal, here’s the latest evidence on quality and efficiency in government infrastructure spending
USA Today reported: “The Port Authority, which operates the bridge at the heart of a New Jersey scandal, says a key appointee of Gov. Chris Christie directed the controversial closing of access lanes to the George Washington Bridge … David Wildstein and Bill Baroni, who were appointed to the Port Authority by Christie, have resigned in the wake of the scandal.”