Obama's $50 Billion Infrastructure Plan a Bad Omen for Future of US Transit


Photo credit: Pacmikey via Flickr/CC BY

Today, president Obama resumed a push for an infrastructure package he first announced a month ago on Labor Day. The $50 billion plan, intended to strengthen American highways, railroads, and runways, would create jobs and provide much-needed repairs to the nation's transit systems. It would especially benefit the construction industry, which has been hit hard by the recession, and our highway system, which is slowly falling into disrepair due to a lack of funding for upkeep. But what are the plan's broader implications for the future of US transit?An outline of what the plan proposes to refurbish or create should answer that question:

--150,000 miles of highway
--150 miles of airport runway, and some funding to upgrade air traffic control towers
--4,000 miles of rail

The 4,000 miles of rail includes repairs to flagging tracks, freight rail, and some high speed transit lines. Obviously, it doesn't amount to much in the way of expanding rail transit, whether it's the high speed variety or our currently available beleaguered Amtrak lines. It's far from an ambitious attempt to expand American transit options. But then again, anything carrying a hint of ambition at the moment is instantly deemed politically untenable: Republicans are already united in opposition to Obama's infrastructure plan, which really amounts to an entirely uncontroversial Highways & Construction Jobs Creation plan.

Alas, the Wall Street Journal relates the conservative sentiment succinctly here:

"Republicans have opposed the administration's infrastructure plan, especially its effort to expand high-speed rail. House Minority Leader John Boehner criticized Mr. Obama's infrastructure plan in September, saying "we can't spend our way to prosperity."
And I've recently noted that Republican candidates for governor -- many of whom will likely win the seat -- are pledging to reject outright the funding already provided for high speed rail in the stimulus bill. Toss into the mix the fact the nation's roads, highways, and bridges are slowly deteriorating because the gas tax is currently too low to cover their maintenance -- and that the GOP and many Dems are against raising it -- and you have an increasingly ugly picture emerging.

Crumbling roads and bridges, supreme neglect and/or opposition to modern transit alternatives, and a general head-in-the-sand attitude towards infrastructure solutions -- behold the depressing reality Obama's modest infrastructure plan brings to light.

More on US Infrastructure
Is the United States Ready for a Higher Gas Tax?
The Obama Administration's Sustainable Infrastructure Strategy

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