FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
Obama Supports Traffic Congestion
Through Obama’s truculent special interest campaign of division and derision, he is rapidly exhausting his check list of demographic groups. He’s already targeted women, Hispanics, gays, blue collar workers, and all sorts of minorities. Now he is going after the ‘commuter vote’ in northern Virginia.
Politico is reporting that Obama is up with a 60-second radio spot in northern Virginia claiming that Paul Ryan’s budget will exacerbate the traffic problems in the sprawling D.C suburbs:
The 60-second radio bit imitates a local traffic report and targets congested routes oft-cursed by northern Virginians: Interstates 395 and 66. The area is part of the sprawling D.C. region and consistently rated as having some of the nation’s worst traffic.
“Could things get any worse?” the faux anchor asks of another broadcaster, who replies, “Paul Ryan put forward a budget plan that slashes investments in road and infrastructure projects.” The two then agree that the Ryan’s “budget plan devastates infrastructure and roads projects.”
The ad also highlights the House Budget chairman’s opposition to “bridge repair and safety bills,” referring to votes against a bridge repair bill written in the aftermath of the 2007 I-35 bridge collapse in Minneapolis, the 2009 stimulus package and a 2011 appropriations bill written by Democrats.
The problem is that it’s actually Obama’s intransigent support of a top-down federally-run highway policy that is encumbering traffic, stifling innovation, and preventing states from taking control of their own destiny.
As we’ve noted many times this year throughout the highway bill fight, there is no sane reason to collect the highway tax revenue from all 50 states and dole out the funds through the inefficient filter of the federal government, especially since the completion of the interstate highway system. This federal behemoth has several fatal flaws which ultimately affect the ability of states like Virginia to deal with traffic problems.
- Roughly $10 billion, or 25% of all funds allocated in multi-year highway bills have been diverted towards mass transit and other special interest projects that detract from pure highway spending to help reduce traffic. So Virginia has to help fund mass transit in California instead of taking control over its own transportation initiatives.
- Because states are forced to rely on the federal government for most highway projects, their entire transportation agenda is tied up in a single 1,000-page bill full of competing interests. So as long as a compromise cannot be reached for a highway bill pertaining to all 50 states, no state can adequately begin planning its infrastructure projects. We saw this play out over the past two years with the logjam over the highway bill. This causes states to delay much-needed highway projects and prevents them from planning them over the most auspicious and cost-effective time frame. It’s all on the federal government’s terms.
- Related to the last point, state dependency on federal highway spending has caused states to squander transportation funding whenever the federal government carpet bombs them with stimulus funding. During Obama’s stimulus, states gobbled up the money when it was available and spent it on incessant repaving and other wasteful projects instead of prudently planning out long-term projects that would help reduce congestion. The porkulous has created a situation where every inch of I-95 along the east coast is under construction, further increasing traffic for ill-conceived short-term projects.
- As former Congressman Ernest Istook noted in the Politico article cited above, the federal funds always come with strings attached. Many vital highway projects are hindered by environmental regulations, one-size-fits-all construction standards, and other red tape. These regulations also gratuitously raise the cost of many road projects. Don’t even mention the billions lost from onerous Davis-Bacon labor handouts.
- As is the case with most policy issues, the private sector is the solution. The current highway bill has provisions that discourage private toll roads and state cooperation with private developers. By forcing states to use their own money, they would look for innovative solutions, such as encouraging private investment in infrastructure, as a means of saving money.
Let’s devolve the federal gas tax revenue to the states and have them spend the money the way they see fit. Traffic congestion is an issue best understood and dealt with on a local level. If there is really a need for more transportation spending, then let’s have the debate about raising gasoline taxes or cutting other spending on a state level. Once states are responsible for their own highway spending, they will stop squandering money on low-priority projects.
This is a classic example of how Republicans need to go on offense when accused of cutting vital services. It’s not a matter of cutting funding; it’s a matter of proposing bolder free market/10th amendment solutions that will ultimately enhance those services. It’s Obama and his statist policies that are responsible for our crumbling infrastructure. Simply agreeing to the premise of the current federal highway system (as did most of the Republican congressmen and senators), albeit with minimal cuts, will not provide that bold contrast. Romney and Ryan need to argue that throwing money down the current inefficient federal drain will not improve traffic congestion at all. But that would require them to adopt the policy of devolution.
And with regards to northern Virginia, there’s one other solution to the traffic problems. Why don’t we cut the federal government back to its constitutional levels? There’s a reason why there are so many new people (and Democrat voters) unnaturally migrating to northern Virginia. Merely trimming back the Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration would go a long way in reducing traffic congestion – in more ways than one.
Cross-posted from The Madison Project