April 28, 2010
Two reports out this week speak, in quite different ways, to the urgent need for a fresh approach to federal transportation policy.
In “Road Work Ahead”, U.S. PIRG sounds the alarm on the escalating deterioration of America’s infrastructure and the need to get serious about repair and restoration. The“Unlocking Gridlock” report from AASHTO, the trade association of state Departments of Transportation, emphasizes the problem of congestion in our increasingly urbanized nation, offering highway expansion as the solution.
The subtext of the PIRG report is that expanding highway capacity – whether by widening or building new roads — is generally a bad idea, because it comes at too high a cost: Deferred maintenance on existing roads and bridges, perpetuation of over-reliance on cars with an associated dependency on oil and other problems.
For AASHTO, congestion comes at too high a cost, and the report marshals a compelling case that people should have a way to avoid those costs. However, the report comes up short in two respects: It does not adequately explain how we built a system that functions so poorly for many commuters, and it offers only one solution — more of the same.