WASHINGTON, April 1, 2006 - In a speech in Springfield, Ohio today, President Bush outlined what he called "the next pillar of the ownership society," a sweeping reform of the nation's roads and highways.
Citing a looming crisis of "crumbling expressways, falling bridges, and car-eating urban potholes," Bush proposed the transfer of the country's road system to millions of ordinary Americans.
"The Eisenhower Interstate Highway System was a solution for an older, simpler time. Fifty years ago, it made sense for the Federal government to fund the construction of the most extensive transportation grid in the world. But that system needs to be reformed to account for the 21st century. It's time for Americans to own their own `piece of the asphalt,'" said Bush.
Under Bush's plan, citizens would be given control of what the Administration calls "personal miles" of the highway system. (Previously leaked versions of the plan called these "private miles.") The stretches of highway could be used by their recipients for driving or any other use.
Bush touted the idea that the plan gives average Americans "roads that they own, roads the Government can't take away from you, roads you can pass on to your children."
In justifying the need for highway reform, Bush painted a bleak picture of the future of the Interstate highway system. "If nothing is done, by the year 2042 America's highways will be "nothing but broken chunks."
Democrats and some Republicans were initially skeptical of the plan, citing the vast success of the system in moving people and goods around the country for half a century, and contributing to the largest economy in the world. They also expressed concerns that the average American might lack the skills of heavy-equipment operation necessary to maintain and improve their personal (or private) miles.
One unnamed Democratic senator went further. "Frankly, this plan is roadkill," he said.