The US Senate is working to pass a jobs bill with the goal of aiding the economy. But the current proposal repeats the transportation mistakes of last year’s stimulus package. The bill would again leave state transportation departments to decide how the money should be spent.
Unfortunately, this led to the funding of new pet projects rather than those that would best address the need to improve people’s safety and mobility. For example, in Washington, ten million dollars dedicated to “transportation enhancements,” a major source of funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects, was set aside to paint the Lewis and Clark Bridge.
At the time, Cascade identified a package of projects for the same cost that could have put people to work around this state and help make a dent in our billion-dollar backlog of nonmotorized projects. And the bridge is still waiting to be painted.
There is a better way for the Senate to act. A proposal by our friends at Transportation for America would is estimated to produce nearly half a million jobs. It would include $1.5 billion in new bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and livability initiatives to expand options for households with lower cost mobility choice.
These funds can be distributed using criteria that reward the projects that serve the greatest need rather than the whim of state officials, as with TIGER grants (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) . The U.S. DOT received grant applications last year for $15 billion in “excellent” projects, but the legislature is holding them back.