Stimulus Disappoints Transit Advocates

Hopes are fading from transit enthusiasts who wanted to see high speed rail and public transit profit from Obama's stimulus package. Even the road lobby is disappointed that infrastructure will get less than tax cuts and state bail-outs.

"Less than one-third of the $825 billion plan that was introduced Thursday (1/15) in the House would go to infrastructure.

Some hoped that the time had finally come to bring high-speed rail to the United States, or to wean the nation from its dependence on foreign oil with new or transformed public transit systems.

At a time when the American Society of Civil Engineers has estimated that $1.6 trillion is needed to improve the nation's crumbling infrastructure, the proposal calls for spending $30 billion on roads and, to the consternation of transit advocates, only $10 billion on transit and rail.

Proponents of mass transit had hoped that much more money would be devoted to transit projects

"It's a drop in the bucket," said Robert D. Yaro, the president of the Regional Plan Association, which has shaped long-term planning in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut since before the New Deal.

The plan also calls for using existing federal formulas to send transportation money quickly to the states, giving policy makers in Washington little say as to where or how the money should be spent."

Thanks to Bay Area Transportation News

Full Story: House Plan for Infrastructure Disappoints Advocates for Major Projects



I cringe when I hear "Shovel Ready"

I have to admit that I cringe every time I hear the words "shovel ready". To further read that there will be little oversight as to how the states use this money and that it would likely be distributed via existing funding formulas also leaves a pit in my stomach.

This is not transformative, this is not "Change we can believe in" - this approach will only continue the infrastructure status quo! If I understand the argument correctly, because the really good projects would take some time to plan, we need to skip these and throw more money at marginal to bad projects?

Planners are workers to, if given the opportunity our profession could rise to the occasion to fast track transformational projects through the planning process and have them "shovel ready" in no time. We need a Planners Call to Action to motivate planners to step up to the plate to take on this enormous challenge.

Duane Verner
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Shovel ready = same old, same old.

Like Duane Verner, I also cringe when I hear the term "shovel ready". Providing funding only for "shovel ready" projects does several things:

(1) It assumes that only jobs created/supported by the actual construction are real enough to warrant the stimulus. What about engineers, planners and consultants involved in bringing other projects to a "shovel ready" state? Supporting this work furthers the goals of economic stimulus, but it also provides the added benefit of being selective, and only proceeding with projects that have a long-term benefit.

(2) It encourages new road construction at the expense of other, more important projects. Because public works departments know that they will eventually get funding for their road expansion projects, they essentially maintain a backlog of shovel ready projects. Transit agencies, railways, and sewer & water departments all get capital funding dribbled out whenever politicians want to make a show of it, so they don't have as many shovel ready projects on hand. It is grossly unfair, and this type of thinking will only result it more unnecessary roads that encourage auto-dependence - the exact opposite way we want to be moving as a society!

(3) It discourages vital maintenance. When a stimulus packages like this is intended only for shovel ready capital projects, vital maintenance projects get shoved to the side. This is incredibly short-sighted because not only does maintenance save money in the long run, it also provides construction, engineering and planning jobs.

I may be Canadian, but we are unfortunately in the same boat. Our federal government's stimulus package is also only for "shovel ready" infrastructure projects, so we're going down the same dark road as the US. I'm very disappointed in both Barack Obama, and our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper.

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