We Need To Fix Our Roads, But...

I caught the end of tonight's World News on ABC. Since it was Friday their usual last feature is Person of the Week.

This week it was the three mayors of Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Mesa, Arizona. What is it that moved ABC to select them as Persons of the Week? They want the federal government (specifically Congress) to stop dickering around and do something about America's crumbling roads. After all, the US used to be number one when it came to the quality of our highways and byways. But no longer. We now rate 20th in the world behind Malaysia and Cypus.

"If they pass the surface transportation bill and America Fast Forward, it will allow us to accelerate the building of that 30-year project in a 10-year period of time, creating 166,000 jobs," Villaraigosa said. "These are the kinds of innovative things that the Congress has an opportunity to do that they haven't done up to now. ... Their failure to address the No. 1 issue in America, the jobs issue, is akin to the captain of the Concordia jumping off the ship before the passengers had been rescued. This Congress needs to get back on that ship and do their job."

I have to admit that I agree with these mayors that our highway system has been seriously neglected over the past few decades. Some states do an admirable job keeping their roads in good shape but they have to struggle to do it, sometimes sacrificing other infrastructure programs to keep the roads open.

But there's something I must point out that the mayors have conveniently forgotten: the ~$800 billion stimulus package put forth by President Obama in 2009. If every penny of that money had gone to fixing roads and other infrastructure they wouldn't have had to try to cajole Congress into dealing with the issue now. We would be almost 3 years into the 10 year rebuilding effort and plenty of people presently unemployed would be working. But no one mentions that out of the entire stimulus package less than 10% went to infrastructure, and not just roads. The rest of the stimulus went to expanding government and lining the pockets of Obama supporters.

Do we really want Congress to drop another trillion dollars on projects that won't do anything but waste taxpayer dollars we don't really have? If we're going to drop a bundle of tax money on roads, then the appropriations will need to be specifically targeted to each state and limited to use on roads only. No “bridges to nowhere”, no side projects that have nothing to do with improving roads, and provisions to do away with the Bacon-Davis Act restrictions (saving tons of money in the process).