Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Renewing and Expanding America’s Roads, Railways, and Runways

In President Obama’s Labor Day Speech yesterday, he announced a $50 billion plan for “Renewing and Expanding America’s Roads, Railways, and Runways” to construct and maintain 4,000 miles of rail among other transportation upgrades to aviation, freight and roadways.

Robert Puentes, Senior Fellow at Brookings’ Metropolitan Policy Program, wonders if President Obama’s approach is enough “given the poor state of our transportation network today, our overall investment needs, and the urgency of repairing our broken policy apparatus.” Puentes notes that the transportation discussion this year is different, mainly in terms of the high unemployment rate in the construction sector topping 27% in February and still an outrageous 17% this month. Global competitiveness is also spurring action as the U.S. falls behind other nations modernizing their infrastructure: China, Germany, India and Brazil.

There is not a shortage of great ideas, Puentes continues, the shortcoming stems from long-term reliable investments and sources for funding. Puentes agrees with Transportation for America in the need to establish a long-term transportation bank for the future to jump start new initiatives and repair existing systems. Benefits continue on a temporary basis not suited to maintain our systems. Via the handy counter, located on the Transportation for America website, approximately 342 days, 14 hours and 30 minutes have passed since the last transportation law expired. Transportation for America notes, “The alternative is gridlocked cities, stranded rural residents, hampered freight delivery and continued over-reliance on increasingly hard-to-get oil supplies.” And Puentes calls for a “frank conversation” over funding, bluntly stating “A jump start now is no good if we stall again down the road.”