Quote of the Day: Why Obama Admin Wimped Out on Water, Transit


exploding sewer in Los Angeles

We have noted dismay before when infrastructure money was going to be thrown at roads instead of renos, but at least there were going be big bucks for transit and water and sewer. Not any more; now we have taxes before Transit. Representative Jim Oberstar explains:

The reason for the reduction in overall funding — we took money out of Amtrak and out of aviation; we took money out of the Corps of Engineers, reduced the water infrastructure program, the drinking water and the wastewater treatment facilities and sewer lines, reduced that from $14 billion to roughly $9 billion — was the tax cut initiative that had to be paid for in some way by keeping the entire package in the range of $850 billion.

Water main break in Hoboken

OK, you have to toss a few tax cuts into the mix to get support for the bailout, (um, don't you control both houses?) but why transit and water instead of roads?

Ryan Avent offers his opinion:

As we’ve seen, shovel-readiness was not an issue, so if infrastructure needed to be tossed, officials could have tossed counterproductive projects like highways. And yet another is that, plenty of other measures, like fare subsidies or operational grants to reduce service cuts, could have been taken to boost transit and the economy immediately, but weren’t.

This is bad, bad, bad. We are missing an opportunity here. And get this: vehicle miles traveled continue to fall. Despite the fact that gas prices in November were well below summer highs (and well below levels in November of 2007) Americans drove nearly 13 billion fewer miles in November of 2008 than they did in November of 2007 — a decline of 5.3%. Transit ridership remains high, on new systems and old, and yet around the country service is being curtailed because local budgets are getting hammered by the recession. This is inexcusable. If we can’t take basic steps to help working families and support the economy while laying the groundwork for long-run environmental sustainability, then we may as well hang it up.

More at the Bellows and Yglesias