Guide to the Green in Obama's Budget: Dept. of Transportation
Photo via the Huffington Post
Yesterday, Obama delivered his ambitious budget to Congress. It's packed with loads of new spending that will land the US in a projected deficit of a whopping $1.75 trillion. So it'd better be good. Over the next week or so, we'll be sifting through the massive budget to reveal what the plans mean for green. First up, a look at what Obama's got in store for US transportation—like more funding for a massive high speed rail system and ideas for a controversial tax that will charge car owners a fee for every mile they drive.The proposed budget would take effect in the fiscal year 2010 (which begins October 1st, 2009—hey, I don't make the rules. Don't blame me if that makes about as much sense as an $8 billion maglev train to Disney land). There's $72.5 billion allotted to the Department of Transportation (pdf) —up only $2 billion from the last two years. So if there's not much more money allotted to transit, what new projects can we expect, and how will they be funded?
Green Ideas in the Budget
The text from the budget says it best itself:
Key priorities for the Administration include promoting public transit and better targeted spending to help communities explore innovative solutions like road pricing to reduce congestion. The Budget advances infrastructure modernization initiatives like . . . a new federal commitment to high speed rail -- a priority that also received funding from the Recovery Act.
Promote public transit? Road pricing? While the chief aim of both may be to clear out clogged roadways, the effect is resoundingly green: they'll get cars off the road. And good news about the rail, too--all those who were rightly concerned that the $8 billion in the stimulus for high speed rail wasn't nearly enough, it looks like it's slated to get a supplementary slice of the budget pie.
From the budget:
Targets surface transportation spending and emphasizes options to make our communities more livable and less congested. Surface transportation programs are at a crossroads. The current framework for financing and allocating surface transportation investments is not financially sustainable; nor does it effectively allocate resources to meet our critical national needs.
Mmm. Seems like a sound idea. But what are the actual plans to relieve congestion and find "financially sustainable" ways to fund surface transportation—and in the process perhaps discourage people from driving? Turns out there are two very big ones . . .