Skip to comments.Who'll Build the Roads?
Posted on 07/16/2014 4:14:50 AM PDT by Kaslin
"Tea party members don't think there's a federal role in transportation!" complained Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, last week, near the site of a $5.8 million highway project.
If only most tea party members were that radical.
While Brown and other big-government folks worry that Republicans will cut spending, Republicans debate adding another $10.5 billion to the Highway Trust Fund to keep it going another year -- without deciding how to reform it.
Now, there's no doubt some roads and bridges need work. But too little transportation money spent by government goes to building and repairing roads.
As Cato Institute transportation analyst Randal O'Toole points out, the construction of the nation's federal highways was largely complete in 1982, but instead of reducing the gas tax that helped pay for them, Congress raised the tax and spent much of the money on things like bicycle trails and "mass" transit.
"Building an interstate highway system," writes O'Toole, "has been replaced by a complex and often contradictory set of missions: maintaining infrastructure, enhancing mobility, reducing air pollution, discouraging driving, supporting transit, building expensive rail lines, promoting economic development, stimulating the economy, stopping climate change and ending urban sprawl, among others."
Then, when roads deteriorate, the federal government laments that it doesn't have enough money.
We should have known that an inevitable side effect of a distant central government spending these billions is that road construction isn't determined by local supply and demand. Often "mass" transit carries few passengers, while nearby roads are congested.
Urban planners, who work closely with government and distrust markets, are convinced that people will leave comfortable suburban homes and flock to dense urban areas with walkable streets, if government just pours money into mass transit.
But even after Congress spent billions on public transportation projects, even rebuilding the downtowns of some cities to make them more pedestrian-friendly, it turned out most Americans wanted to stay in their suburban homes.
Then urban planners assumed adults would relocate to cities once their kids left for college or jobs, but a recent Fannie Mae report found baby boomers are not doing that. The planners are surprised. They shouldn't be.
"After all," writes O'Toole, "baby boomers' parents overwhelmingly preferred to 'age in place' rather than move when their children left home; why should baby boomers be any different?"
It turns out that government spent your billions on urban transit based on surveys that asked people if they want to live in "walkable communities."
Of course people said yes! Who doesn't want to live in a neighborhood where you can "walk to shops"? But if they'd asked, "Are you willing to spend about four times as much per square foot to live in a city instead of a spacious suburban home?" they'd get different answers.
Now, I live the way bureaucrats want you to live. I have an apartment in New York City, one of the most densely populated places on Earth. I take the subway system to get around and sometimes ride my bicycle. I like living this way. But bureaucrats shouldn't try to force you to live the way I live.
In fact, herding people into denser urban areas sounds suspiciously like something that makes life easier for the bureaucrats themselves. It was a popular idea with communist planners in Romania and North Korea. Mass transit and "planned spaces" appeal to the bureaucratic mind.
How about going the opposite route? Let people live where they choose, let private entities build roads and mass transit (many roads and even most of New York City's subways were privately built), and let user fees from commuters pay for roads and transit.
There is justice in that idea: People who love to drive will pay for it, and those who don't want to pay have an extra incentive to move to those urban spaces planners like so much.
In a market, everybody wins. With government planners, it's always "My way or the highway."
Charlie Brown and football time.
If the previous $$ didn’t go toward fixing things, why will this $$?
The progressive idiots want to Agenda 21 everything with the “Safe Streets” rhetoric. What they really want (or should I say the politicians that are using them want) is to turn every roadway into a tool road and charge per mile. If they would they would force you to place a GPS tracker device in your vehicle to keep track of every mile and bill you for it. It’s not enough that we get fee’d and taxed to the tune of 50 - 60 % of our income anymore; they want it ALL.
Exactly. It has been a misapplication of funds for a very long time.
Another Stossel homerun ..
This has to be Sen. Brown’s eating mouth making talking sounds again, as normally his rectal orifice has a great deal more native good sense.
Talk about sucking up green canal water and spouting out pure vitriol.
First of all, what the not so good Senator is talking about, has little to do with the available funding. There is more than enough cash flow (or there was) to easily maintain and improve the corridors over which motor vehicles pass in the daily exercise of enterprise. Secondly, what there is NOT money for, is the construction and extension of “public transportation networks” that contribute little or nothing to the revenue flowing into the “Highway Trust Fund”, but an inordinate demand has been placed on this somewhat mythical “fund” for the construction of bicycle paths, high-speed rail corridors, and various slush funds that have little to do with expediting daily commerce over our highways and between points of production and points of consumption.
Raiding what were once supposed to be segregated funds for a particular purpose, and simply GIVING those funds to support a much different and almost totally unrelated purpose, has been a trait of the Progressive movement right from its beginning, and one of its least lovable aspects. It is graft and theft of trust funds on an enormous scale, and would be prosecuted without mercy if it were an individual fiduciary who was perpetrating such a fraud.
“Safe Streets rhetoric.”
Just ask Rahm Emmanuel how the safe street initiative is working out in Chicago.
“Tea party members don’t think there’s a federal role in transportation!”
The Tea Party is absolutely correct!
“Roads and bridges.” A total waste of money and a prize “plumb” for large contractors who receive the “fruit” hanging off the crony tree.
Think back to the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s and remember how long it took to build a road or bridge...and the cost of it.
Compare that today and it’s amazing how long and how much today’s cost. Why? Rules and Regulations designed by our governmental agencies to require massive time, materials and payments to just about everyone other than the actual builders in order to “protect” the environment and special needs of those who live near the project.
The main reason is mismanagement and coordination among all concerned.
For example: Everyone has seen a new street being built and once it is completed it is cut across to lay a new utility or pipe simply because planning and coordination simply does not exist in any government project.
The libertarians did have a good idea to privatize roads and bridges. Toll roads and bridges are a perfect example of this. When the actual “real world” of business (profit and loss P&L) comes into play, efficiency in both fiscal and management becomes the rule of the day.
The government has an endless supply of money and NO real management credentials.
It can certainly be argued that money from gas taxes shouldn't be spent on bicycle trails. But let's at least recognize that they are really, really cheap per mile compared to highways or mass transit construction.
The author's argument would have been greatly enhanced had he included statistics about how much money is spent on new road construction versus highway maintenance versus bike trails versus mass transit.
As it is, he leaves the impression we'd have plenty of money for roads if we just didn't build bike trails or mass transit. While mass transit may have had some significant effect, I really doubt bike trails did.
“There is justice in that idea: People who love to drive will pay for it, and those who don’t want to pay have an extra incentive to move to those urban spaces planners like so much.”
It is NOT POSSIBLE to build private roads. Even Suckerberg, with all his billions from Facebook, would STILL not be able to privately build a highway more than a few miles long, because some rancher, or group of ranchers simply will not give up the land that’s been in their family for HUNDREDS OF YEARS, no matter what he offered.
So GOVERNMENT has to be involved, and has to TAKE those parcels, and then the corruption begins and is MUCH WORSE when private entities get to operate and profit (with monopoly protection) from those roads, as people all over North America and Europe have now found out.
If you want a ranchers land, then the land needs to be paid for not taken.
Case in point. In Minnesota (no longer live there), they were offering good money to put those wind turbines up. Good Money. If you are going to buy a ranchers land to build a private road, give him a piece of the pie in perpetuity. I bet they'd get more takers.
Read your Constitution. The Federal gov’t does have an enumerated power to establish post roads.
That said, I am not arguing with you that there is tremendous waste in highway building and similar projects, for a variety of reasons.
Repeal the Bacon Davis Act and allow truly competitive bidding as well as true market forces to work. This would cure a lot of ills with our Federal spending problems.
Read your Constitution. The Federal govt does have an enumerated power to establish post roads.
Enumerated power does not mean EXCLUSIVE power. It merely mentions that they can build post roads....nothing more.
Taxes go up and bridges fall down. Again. And again.
You agreed that the Federal gov’t has “no role” in transportation. I showed that there is a specific enumerated power to establish roads that argues otherwise.
I don’t argue that this power is exclusive.
But if “the Tea Party” argues that there is “no role” for the Federal gov’t in transportation, then “the Tea Party” is ignorant.
Yah, I quite agree. Eminent domain is absolutely essential for roads, railroads, pipelines, electric transmission lines, etc.
Without ED such absolutely essential items could not be built. I also agree it’s wrong to use government power to take land from private entity A and then give it to private entity B to make money with.
The logical approach is to have people pay a fee per mile per ton weight. That equates to them paying for the wear they put on the roads, which is only indirectly related to the gas burned.
Transportation Empowerment Act
Introduced by U.S. Rep. Tom Graves & U.S. Sen. Mike Lee
TEA: Learn it, love it, live it.
Forget the feds- they get gas tax money from rural areas and spend it all according to how the Dem new urbanists want their metrocrap trains to run.
Eliminate the fed gas tax, send all that $ back to the states. Block grant it to start with.At least people in our states may actually have a chance to say where our $ is spent AND not be hostage to federal DUI levels, speed limits, etc.
Instead, Senator Corkhole (RINO) of TN wants to raise the gas tax and send DC even more money. Freaking moron.
Still have a problem if a big company is trying to build a road, say from Houston to Dallas and 3 huge ranches in between decide to either not sell, or hold out for a HUGE AMOUNT of money, 20 times more than they know their land is worth (even after being cut through).
What then...the road doesn’t get built, as the builder are NOT going to build a road that zig-zags around recalcitrant ranchers and is 3 times longer than needed to get between the cities.
Not the same with windmills - if Farmer A doesn’t want them, fine - then Farmer B can take them. If Farmer A and B don’t want them, then Farmer C can take them. And if Farmer C is the one that takes them all, you can be DAMN SURE that the government will take the needed land from Farmer A and Farmer B to run the power lines to the windmills, if that is the best option.
For a small enough area, where everyone NEEDS and BENEFITS from private roads...they will get built. But when the REAL BENEFICIARIES are the pass-through traffic, then they WILL NOT get built, or the tolls will be THROUGH THE ROOF, as anyone driving down the East Coast quickly finds out when they have to pay $13 to cross a grade-level bridge that is 800 feet long.