Sunday, April 30


Remember the "bridges to nowhere" earmarked for Alaska? I bet you thought they were defeated. I know I did. Well, they're still going to be built.

This is really a terribly interesting and informative article. Read the whole thing.

News accounts focused almost exclusively on the highway bill's earmarks, as if the rest of the bill was non-pork. But those earmarks, while unprecedented, cost less than 10 percent of the overall bill. Most of the money went directly to the states, and as the story of the bridges to nowhere shows, sending money to states is no guarantee it will be spent wisely. Earmarks were just part of the bill's larger public policy problem: Instead of addressing the problems of the cities and suburbs where most Americans live, such as traffic, smog, lousy mass transit and dilapidated roads and bridges, it will subsidize sprawl by promoting new highways in sparsely developed areas -- roads to nowhere, so to speak.

That's what most states do with their federal funding, as the Brookings Institution has documented in recent studies. Thirty states have laws prohibiting the use of gas-tax revenue for anything but highways, and federal rules make it much easier for states to finance highways than transit; it's no coincidence that on Capitol Hill the transportation bill is known as the "highway bill." Members of Congress who want to promote light rail, buses or any other transportation options often have no choice but to turn to earmarks.

Most states also have strong biases toward building new roads instead of repairing old ones -- all politicians love to cut ribbons -- and spending in rural as opposed to metropolitan areas. Ohio, for example, distributes gas-tax revenue to all its counties equally, so rural Harrison County (population 15,000) receives as much as urban Cuyahoga County (population 1.4 million). The result is billions of dollars for speculative sprawl roads -- like the bridges to nowhere, whose stated purpose was to expand development into relatively pristine areas of Alaska.

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Blogger Left of Center said...

it's just sick what they do and why..a good complimentary article to this is Lily's piece over at blue republic.

10:55 AM  
Blogger Motherlode said...

Thanks for the tip -- I'll go look.

11:50 AM  

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