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I'm the editor of the Progressive Congress News Transit & Urban Development feed. This is the second in a weekly series on roads, rails, and the cities they connect.

Driving out of DC into Maryland, you'll find one in three roads in poor condition. About one in five bridges is "functionally obsolete." Maryland is Exhibit A for why the American Society of Civil Engineers gives American roads a D minus. But never mind the 90,000 miles of crumbling highways and 70,000 structurally  deficient bridges -- the House Republican majority is moving full speed ahead to slash the budget for the US Department of Transportation and turn the remainder into a highway slush fund.

Beginning with $9 billion in proposed cuts under H.R.1, the Republican majority has doubled-down with Paul Ryan's proposal to cut $1.5 billion in high speed rail corridors and cut the federal budget for public transit nearly in half. Their budget will slow or stop repair of unsafe bridges, subway and rail safety upgrades, a broad range of new transit projects, unsafe intersection improvements, small ports modernization, and clean water controls.

The safety case cannot be overstated. Contrary to the NTSB's  urgent calls for safety improvements to the  Washington Metro, for example, Republicans would completely eliminate funding to improve signaling. This is all on top of America's long-running infrastructure deficit, currently running at about $200 billion. If we wanted to bring our transit systems up to par, it would cost more than  $77 billion (.PDF). That's not the price tag for world-class, or even "good" -- just "fair."

America already wastes some $67 billion a year (.PDF) on the wrong transportation priorities. Untold tens of billions more are wasted on inefficiency: vehicles stuck in traffic, accidents on unsafe highways, and so on. Transportation is an enormous expense for American families. As USDOT Deputy Secretary John Porcari recently said, "if you make between  $20,000 and $50,000 a year, odds are  that transportation is  your number one household expense, higher than  housing." He wasn't exaggerating: fueling up costs as much as health care.

Nor is it correct to say that prosperity will follow these cuts. Every dollar invested in public transit returns at least four dollars in revenue. Infrastructure spending is a huge jobs machine: Democratic staffers on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee estimated H.R.1's $9 billion in cuts to the USDOT would  kill 284,000 jobs across all fifty states (.PDF).

But the Republican Party isn't merely interested in tea party-pleasing reductions to our safety and efficiency. Back in charge, the very first point of order for House Republicans was to overturn a part of the 1998 surface transportation bill called TEA-21 which assured all highway user fees collected by the federal government were invested in surface transportation improvements -- a roads and rails "lock box," if you will. This naked chicanery was enough to make West Virginia Blue Dog Nick Rahall say,

As their very first act in the Majority, I find it incredible that Republicans would want to pursue a job-killing proposal like this. One that not only threatens jobs but that could also lead to dramatic reductions in spending for very necessary and worthy highway projects throughout the Nation.

In brief, this move allows the GOP to use Highway trust Fund monies to hide the size of the deficit. By putting highway funding back in the appropriations process instead of a transportation bill, House Republicans transform America's road system into a pure pork product that fattens their deficit reduction numbers at an enormous cost to states and cities. It will be nearly impossible for them to make long-term plans, and the American worker -- whether driving or riding -- will be the big loser in that picture.

Remember the bridge to nowhere? Assuming it still stands, there may or may not be a highway to get you there. That decision won't be made on the relative merit of your planning, either, but the loving support you give your Republican representatives. We have been here before, haven't we?

Originally posted to Matt Osborne on Wed Apr 06, 2011 at 07:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  If you're rec'ing this diary, (29+ / 0-)

    Please take a second to click here and vote to send me to Netroots Nation so I can talk about Progressive Congress News.

    by Matt Osborne on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 09:38:44 PM PDT

  •  Palin built the road to no-bridge to nowhere (5+ / 0-)

    so that money could have been better spent...

    •  Who™? n/t (6+ / 0-)

      Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

      by JeffW on Wed Apr 06, 2011 at 09:38:22 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Gov. Scott Walker(WI) wants to rebuild Hoan Bridge (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      trashablanca, Larsstephens, ladybug53

      in downtown Milwaukee, which runs along the shore of Lake Michigan as the I-794 spur off I-94.  

      Well, that  announcement stunned most of us here in Cheddarland since we were under the distinct impression that the state was in such dire straits that we all had to make these big sacrifices, and surrender union rights, especially teachers, nurses, and all sorts of state and local government public workers, and give up on the idea that the state would be staffed to provide reasonable service to anyone, well except for the rich folks. So it was quite a shock to hear there's enough money in the state's distressed treasury lock box to support a major bridge rebuild project!  

      Okay, sure, there's some justification for that bridge to be rebuilt, although it's still something of a local joke, a local bridge to nowhere really vital, although it can sort of serve as an alternate route to I-94 when I-94 is closed down near the MKE airport.  Parts and chunks do fall off of the bridge, so indeed it's been in dire need of attention, perhaps for nearly a decade.  But in the recent past so many other 'budget priorities' took precedence, and interchanges that are essential to traffic getting into and around Milwaukee got major attention.  

      Getting the Hoan Bridge completed in it's first incarnation took decades...and when it was the disconnected partially completed bridge to nowhere it was featured in the movie "The Blues Brothers' when a car drove off the unfinished end of the bridge and gravity's work did the car in.  I can sort of see why Walker is unconsciously attracted to this bridge.

      In Wisconsin, our state DoT monies (from sales of gas, diesel, tires, etc.) are supposed to be segregated funds dedicated to roads and mass transit, but sometimes they get diverted in sneaky ways to keep the state from going bankrupt due to lack of sufficient tax revenues, since it's far more terrible to commit the sin of raising taxes, especially on the virtuous job-showering rich people, although we've yet to find the shower with the jobs.  So, yes, Scott.  it'd be 'popular'  to rebuild the Hoan Bridge, with a few thousand people, to have a safe working bridge and freeway route connecting downtown Milwaukee with it's Lakeshore neighborhoods to the South of downtown. But it's not really a big 'comeback' from behind sort of play. 

      In Milwaukee this sort of expensive project would not be all that divisive (except for the Waukesha folks who will probably resent this spending of their tax dollars and 'everyone' knows it's their share of the taxes doing the heavy lifting in the state).  A popular road construction project could be a real change of pace for Walker..  Except, why really do this now?  Why would he blow his staunch resolute principles and scruples to bend over  and give jobs to union road construction workers now?  Why is he giving a state 'grant' of $500,000 to a farmer's dairy co-op in Reedsville?  Or his announcement of supporting construction and remodeling of a few state buildings on various campuses and state owned property? Does he imagine tossing out a few of these trinkets will win him loyal support after his  scorched earth approach to destroying public worker unions and savaging funding for local schools and local government?  Does he imagine this sort of short term spending to benefit a few constituencies will actually stave off his own recall election next year?

      And this is still the same dude who refused the jobs, factories and major federal investment that High-Speed Rail would have brought to Wisconsin.  Although, a week ago a 'moderate' Scott yelled 'dibs' on some stinky federal High Speed Rail monies cast aside by by Florida's HSR-hating GOP governor.  Scott Walker's big plan worthy of a chunk of the HSR federal pie: add a couple more train trips tp the schedule of the existing low-speed Hiawatha Amtrak line connecting Milwaukee and Chicago, and maybe beef up the station facilities a bit.  Seriously, a Tea Bagger Republican supporting Amtrak?  

      See, in some GOP brains that's a 'good'  train project, since it doesn't expand the Chicago & Milwaukee traffic by allowing connections to and from  Waukesha, Madison (home of that Ewe Dubya and truth-catapulting professors, and unworthy lefty Liberal-citizens), Eau Claire (more libruls--with deer hunting guns), and Minneapolis (a well known librul center--inspite of Rep. Bachmann).  Normally, our Tea Bagger GOP folk remain vigilant to keep those crazy train-riding eco-liberals out of Waukesha, as well as all those poor downtown Milwaukee job seekers--it's just that important.  Importing Chicago business people and their money is okay, it's good for business, and probably worth it.  Helping poor people get mass transit access to some share of that big wealth pie kept in lofty Waukesha...well, that's just librul godless pinko-communism at it's worst.  Of course, Waukesha still hopes to import  large amounts of that Lake Michican water to which Milwaukee holds the rights (and under the Great Lakes Compact it can't change that)...but it's not really over in Walkerville until Walker and Waukesha says it's over.

      When life gives you wingnuts, make wingnut butter!

      by antirove on Wed Apr 06, 2011 at 04:32:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Every time I drove over, or worse, under, (5+ / 0-)

    a bridge in the Boston area, I felt like I was taking my life in my own hands.  

    Most had not been painted since they were built, huge chunks of roadway were coming out, and in some cases falling down on motorists below.  

    Absolutely shocking display of poor stewardship of resources by the govt of Massachusetts.  

    Each year, my car would be subject to an road-worthy inspection for $30, yet one out of two cars would have burned-out brake lights - how is that possible?  Bulbs that last less than a year?  No, just a scam to line the pockets of those inspection stations.  

    Republican marriage is between one man and one another woman on the side.

    by Alan Arizona on Wed Apr 06, 2011 at 01:01:17 PM PDT

  •  America itself is on a bridge to nowhere (5+ / 0-)

    and what do the Republicans care? Most of these old guys are going to be dead before the ramifications of their avarice and ignorance are truly felt. Who needs highways when you take a private jet? Who needs roads when you have yachts?

    Here's to our last drink of fossil fuels - may we vow to get off of this sauce...shoo away the swarms of commuter planes...and find that train ticket we lost.

    by terra on Wed Apr 06, 2011 at 01:36:06 PM PDT

  •  Tappan Zee Bridge (5+ / 0-)

    The absolute worst is the Tappan Zee Bridge.

  •  and as bad as MD is. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Matt Osborne, Larsstephens, ladybug53

    When I leave my fine state I am in AWE of how well the roads are.  MD, VA, WV, DE.  All ten times better than PA.

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