A Bill of Goods? Assessing the Transportation Legislation


(Photo: Tiberiu Ana)

Good news from Eric A. Morris at Freakonomics: No earmarks this time (there were 6,371 in the 2005 legislation). Amazing, that makes this a historic bill! The HSR- type boondoggles are there, but not the Senate’s HSR spendathon.

Okay, in this post let’s start off on the bright side. At a time when the two parties cannot agree on the menu at the Congressional cafeteria, the Republicans and Democrats have found something they can agree on. After three years of debate and nine temporary stopgap extensions, Congress and the President have enacted new transportation authorization legislation. This bill divvies up the gas tax money, plus some miscellaneous revenue from other sources (more on this later), and funds and regulates the federal surface transportation program for the next 27 months. 

(…) However, one high point is the liberalization of the regulations surrounding tolling on the Interstates, as long as tolls are levied only on new capacity or underused carpool lanes. I’ve made the case for such tolls here and here. If done correctly, they will be a win all-around: for government, for taxpayers, and for drivers—even, believe it or not, for drivers who never choose to use the new tolled lanes. 

(…) One other plus from my perspective: the Senate’s Title V provisions for increased funding of high-speed rail were left out of the legislation. I’ve written a bunch about my skepticism on HSR (herehere, and here). I will miss many things about California when I move to South Carolina in a couple of weeks. But at least my health insurer is cutting my premiums because of a sharp drop in my chances of dropping dead of from apoplexy after reading about California’s HSR program.