Is it a wise use of taxpayers dollars to spend $13 billion in the next five years ($8 billion in the recovery package and $5 billion in the next five annual appropriations) in a down payment on constructing a high-speed rail network? Or are there better ways to spend this money on transportation? That was the subject of a recent weekly debate on the National Journal's Transportation Blog. The debate revealed a spectrum of opinion among the contributors, with proponents of high-speed rail outnumbering the doubters by a wide margin.
This year, the future of public-private partnerships is expected to receive heightened attention amid speculations that Congress may attempt to assert oversight over public-private partnerships and place conditions on private toll road concession agreements as part of next year's transportation program reauthorization. Some interest groups, notably the trucking industry and public employe labor unions, are expected to vigorously support efforts to regulate PPPs at the federal level. Meanwhile, PPP proponents believe that the case for greater private sector involvement in infrastructure funding has never been stronger. They want to see this involvement mature free of congressional oversight or federal regulatory controls.
For over a year now, calls have multiplied to give the surface transportation program a new sense of direction. With near unanimity, the transportation community, along with most congressional lawmakers and state and local officials, have concluded that the current program has lost its focus and lacks a clear mission and a guiding purpose. A bipartisan consensus has developed that perpetuating the status quo is not the answer.