Wednesday, January 25, 2012

SOTU – Transportation Gets a Mention!

Transportation at least got a mention in last night’s State of the Union address.  Although we might have hoped for more, I think we are all pleased that the President talked about the importance of transportation.  Maybe this will help provide a little momentum to reauthorization.
Some additional details are available in the “Blueprint” outline document posted by the White House.
A few comments:
·      No mention of transit.  Maybe this was because transportation is included in the manufacturing section.  Nevertheless, fares are increasing and service is deteriorating in many transit systems, causing a drag on the economy and hardships on transit users.  Transit desperately needs help if the economy is to rebound.
·      Funding for the transportation program (at what level?) is to come from savings.  No one knows what this actually means, but the proposal has the effect of once again dodging the obvious (to some of us) need for a bump in the motor fuels tax.
·      Good to see a mention of high-speed rail, but we all know this will takes lots of money over time, and we have convinced ourselves that we are a poor nation and can’t afford to do anything big anymore.  We’ll see what happens.
·      The placement of transportation in the manufacturing section of the Blueprint probably led to stating the reasoning for investment in transportation as: “so that companies can ship their goods more efficiently throughout the country and the world.”  The relationship of the transportation sector to an “insourcing” program – which I strongly support – needs a lot more discussion.  At the moment, our investments in freight in this country are largely focused on supporting the supply chain from Chinese manufacturing.   What would an American manufacturing investment program look like?
·      No mention of the importance of transportation investments as an economic stimulus.  It may be that the President’s opponents have been so successful in stigmatizing the original stimulus bill that the administration won’t talk about it.  This is unfortunate, as I think most of us familiar with it would call ARRA a huge success, at least on the transportation side.  Nothing would do more for the economy right now than an ARRA II!
It was great to see the President being more assertive and positive and inspirational on a lot of issues, including (although minimally) transportation.  Hopefully his message will energize discussions about getting transportation funding back on track.  Then we need to take these discussions to the next step: planning and building the transportation system of the 21st century.

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