Our friends at NC Policy Watch have the good fortune of featuring this excellent post by Dan Besse.
The economic stimulus package approved last month contains nearly $30 billion for surface transportation projects. That will help kick-start spending for a short-term economic stimulus, as intended, but it will put hardly a measurable dent in the backlog of project demands.
In the Piedmont Triad region, for example, one of the largest uses of the transportation stimulus funds will be a multi-million dollar pavement rehabilitation project on a potholed stretch of I-40. That will smooth millions of rides for the next few years, but it won't touch the issue of how to deal with rising travel needs in the long-term.
If we're going to take on this challenge, we're finally going to have to grasp the reality that we can't afford to build all the streets, highways, and bridges projected as needed under our current approach to transportation (much less maintain them too). Increasing numbers of thoughtful citizens see that we've covered our eyes for decades while our road maintenance debt has dammed up and overflowed.
More importantly, the public is beginning to understand that solving these problems will require more than patching the potholes. Already, three out of four Americans favor improving intercity rail and transit, and over half believe that the federal government should do more to improve trains and light rail systems.
I wish I were as optimistic as Dan is about this. Or maybe it's fair to say the public is beginning to understand ... if what you mean by beginning is "barely."
I sure hope someone besides me is paying attention to this column. You've read it, right Bev?