What’s the best way to modernize our transportation?
With a lagging economy, high unemployment, and aging transportation systems, Americans debate the best ways to invest in their infrastructure and stimulate economic activity – from high-speed rail and congestion pricing, to cutting pork and tapping private capital.
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Across the country, needed infrastructure projects are bogged down by politics and a system that prioritizes pork over mobility. But we need a 21st-century transportation system and here are several ways to get there:
•Rethink the federal role in transportation to focus federal gas-tax money on highway projects that deliver the largest benefits to mobility and congestion relief. Taxpayers have lost confidence in transportation spending because they’ve seen too many “Bridges to Nowhere” built while their own commutes get longer.
•Tap private capital and public-private partnerships to finance highway improvements. President Obama has smartly promoted a National Infrastructure Bank. If it is set up to leverage private investments in megaprojects that will deliver the highest benefit-cost ratios, America’s mobility will be greatly enhanced.
•Reduce waste. Reason Foundation’s Annual Highway Report finds states spend millions on bureaucratic costs, money that never reaches roads. California spends $93,464 in administrative costs per mile of state road.
•Ignore gimmicks like high-speed rail. America’s so-called high-speed trains won’t be high-speed at all compared with those in Asia and Europe and won’t reduce our “dependence” on cars. Trains will, however, require massive subsidies that worsen state and federal budget deficits.
Infrastructure for trains, planes, and cars should be self-supporting. The nation will be on a better path when major projects are guided by benefit-cost ratios and users pay the full costs for the services they consume.
– Robert Poole, director of transportation policy, Reason Foundation