Bob's Links and Rants

Welcome to my rants page! You can contact me by e-mail: Blog roll. Site feed.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Blame it on the trains

If you were wondering what it takes to get a Republican governor to support raising taxes, you now know: A bridge in a river and a bunch of bodies:
In the past two years, Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota twice vetoed legislation to raise the state's gas tax to pay for transportation needs.

"He's open to that," Brian McClung, a spokesman for the governor, said Monday of a higher gas tax. "He believes we need to do everything we can to address this situation and the extraordinary costs."

Even as the cause of the bridge disaster here remains under investigation, the collapse is changing a lot of minds about spending priorities. It has focused national attention on the crumbling condition of America's roadways and bridges--and on the financial and political neglect they have received in Washington and many state capitals.
But the NY Times article seems determined to blame the bridge collapse on transit projects:
Despite historic highs in transportation spending, the political muscle of lawmakers, rather than dire need, has typically driven where much of the money goes. That has often meant construction of new, politically popular roads and transit projects rather than the mundane work of maintaining the worn-out ones.

Further, transportation and engineering experts said, lawmakers have financed a boom in rail construction that, while politically popular, has resulted in expensive transit systems that are not used by a vast majority of American commuters.

Representative James L. Oberstar, Democrat of Minnesota and the chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, sent out a news release last month boasting about Minnesota's share of a recent transportation and housing appropriations bill.

Of the $12 million secured for the state, $10 million is slated for a new 40-mile commuter rail line to Minneapolis, called the Northstar. The remaining $2 million is divided among a new bike and walking path and a few other projects, including highway work and interchange reconstruction.
You learn some interesting things from the NY Times, many of them untrue. Who knew that transit systems are politically popular? Now, I'll grant them that "transit systems that are not used by a vast majority of American commuters," but that is because transit systems are not available to a vast majority of American commuters. And the level of research at the NY Times is so impressive that I've been able to far exceed it in the last ten minutes. Their research? Reading a news release from one congressman. My research? Well, the Minnesota Dept. of Transportation's annual budget is near $2 billion, of which Oberstar's $12 million covers 0.6 percent (Northstar's share being 0.5 percent). Northstar's estimated capital cost is $289.1 million, or about 14 percent of one year's state transportation budget.

But hey--you read the NY Times, you learn that those people died in the bridge collapse because Congress is just blowing WAY too much money on mass transit.