If House Republicans are from Mars, is the administration from Venus? At least it seems like they’re from two different planets when it comes to the issue of transportation in this country. On the one hand, House Republicans, in a Tea Party-powered frenzy, are hacking away willy-nilly at transportation spending. The administration, on the other hand, just proposed a major increase in transportation investment – and this in a budget full of difficult spending cuts (for more details see Tanya Snyder's great streetsblog coverage).
House Republican extremists will probably be outraged by the proposal, but maybe the administration is from Earth after all. A recent Rockefeller Institute poll shows that two-thirds of American voters believe that improving our transportation infrastructure is important. And eighty percent agree that federal funding to improve and modernize transportation will boost local economies, create jobs, and help revitalize America’s economic growth. (The Treasury Department agrees with this, too.)
Obama is proposing an investment of $556 billion in surface transportation over the next six years, including money for high speed rail, for much needed road and bridge repair, and doubling funding for public transit, among other things. There’s also the smart idea of consolidating 60 highway and transit programs, and focusing investments on projects based on results – not political favors.
This is a big, big budget proposal. And it should be. Transportation is the second biggest expense for most Americans, ahead of food and health care. Transportation policy affects every single one of us. It can mean the difference between a safe street for your kid to bike on and a highway in your backyard. It can get you home in time for dinner with your family, or leave you stuck in a traffic jam. We can be a nation of collapsing bridges (or bridges to nowhere), or a country of connected communities.
The Administration is swinging for the fences on this one, and they’re going to get pushback from some conservatives. But transportation is one issue where both parties have a history of working together, and it’s an issue where the public expects bipartisan cooperation. I look forward to more details from President Obama and his staff about this ambitious and badly needed commitment to transportation.
Everyone wants to see this country move forward. Investing in transportation will help get us there.