Avoiding Buyer's Remorse in the Stimulus Package

I am now a part of the National Journal's transportation experts blog, and this week's question is about the stimulus bill: What should the transportation infrastructure portion look like? Here's my answer.

Frankly, it's refreshing to hear that question asked at all. On the radio this morning, I heard the President-Elect talk about shovel-ready road and bridge projects, as I have heard from many  commentators. And then a story aired about soaring transit ridership, contrasted with an amazing 11-month-straight drop in driving, both big changes from recent trendlines. See a disconnect?

When talking new capacity, we should be talking public transportation. But having watched and listed intently to this debate for the past couple of weeks, I can name exactly two talking heads who mentioned transit, bless them: David Axelrod and E.J. Dionne.

Meanwhile, when talking about roads and bridges, we should be talking about repair (remember the Minneapolis bridge collapse?). 

We need to pay attention, because while Washington is succeeding in getting the auto industry to change its product plans and accept other conditions in exchange for 20 or so billion dollars, here's the dirty little secret: Project lists are being collected from states for spending that could add up to ten times that much. And what stringent criteria to ensure worthy performance is Congress applying? I believe "first come, first served" sums it up.

American taxpayers deserve, and Congress can do, better. States should be required to have plans at least as robust as those required of the automakers, showing how these investments will contribute to energy security, climatic stability as well as economic prosperity.