cross-posted from Progressive Blue: http://www.eenrblog.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=3406
Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 20:53:58 PM EST
| (on transportation and the economy... - promoted by poligirl) |
Burning the Midnight Oil for Energy Independence (crosspost links at the blog)
There is this big emphasis on "shovel ready projects" in the Stimulus Bill ... but now that the details are coming out, we can see that in transport, its just a load of horseshit used as an excuse for supporting business as usual.
The headline numbers are $30b highway spending, $10b for public transport and rail:
I got a "shovel-ready" project for you ... shoveling out the bullshit from the Bush Administration Department of Transport and replacing the pandering to the oil companies with a concern for America's Economic Future.
|BruceMcF :: Transport Stimulus: You're Doing It Wrong|
|The Details, Wherein The Devil Lies |
Take the following details, wherein the devil always lies. Under the summary description, "$10 billion for transit and rail to reduce traffic congestion and gas consumption" ... which is fishy right there, since everybody knows there are more than $10b in deferred maintenance to get passenger and freight rail in this country, and more than $10b in freight bottlenecks, many of which have been "studied" to death (since Yet Another Study is much cheaper than funding capital works) ... and we see the following specifics (emphases added):
Capital Assistance to States-Intercity Passenger Rail Service Recovery Funding: $300 million
No detail on the number of "shovel ready" projects, but AASHTO annual investment needs estimated at roughly $3b annually, allocation of 10% of that.
Amtrak Capital Grants Recovery Funding: $800 million
A backlog in excess of $10b, funding of under 8% of that.
Transit Capital Assistance Recovery Funding: $6.000 billion
$15.9b ready to go projects, funding at 38% of that.
Fixed Guideway Infrastructure Investment Recovery Funding: $2.000 billion
Capital backlog of $50b, funding at 4% of that.
Capital Investment Grants Recovery Funding: $1.000 billion
$2.4b in pre-approved projects (but, it would seem, not yet funded), funding at 42% of that ... and that's just what the Bush Dept. of Transport has identified.
"More Asphalt" Sure Is The Change Someone Can Believe In
Now, for comparison, what is the ratio of funding to "shovel ready" projects for highways?
Highway Infrastructure Investment Recovery Funding: $30 billion
In other words, roughly 42% of the annual funding gap and roughly 50% of identified shovel ready projects.
The Appropriations Committee can natter on all it wants about the glories of roadworks, but this country passed our peak oil production about forty years ago and is now addicted to petroleum imports for more than half of our petroleum needs, while a much larger part of the operating costs of the rail and bus transport system are the wages of the people working on the system. Those non-highway appropriations have a strategic defense imperative, and a long term economic development imperative, in addition to transport benefits that outweigh the benefits of yet another roadwork project, and yet are underfunded compared to highway construction.
We are spending $2.4b on the chimera of "clean coal", just to buy protective cover for the real sustainable energy spending ... and there is just $1.1b on regional rail transport.
Even worse, there is $0.0b on improvements in regional freight rail transport.
And the 100% federal funding allowed under the stimulus plan would allow us to make short term investments with long-term benefits all across the country ... this is not just a matter of the Northeast Corridor and California. For example, there is a massive freight logjam in Chicago. As the Metropolitan Planning Council notes:
A new state capital plan would mean new investments in metropolitan Chicago 's freight rail system. Trains currently crawl through the region at average speeds of 12 mph and frequently block traffic at hundreds of intersections in the south and southwest suburbs alone. Modernizing our freight rail network not only would reduce delays for train commuters, drivers and transporters but also would accommodate commuter rail and spur economic opportunities in adjacent communities. The entire region would benefit from much-needed freight capital expenditures.
Investing in freight rail throughways in Chicago is an investment in the productivity of our national economy. And there are "shovel ready" projects. And Stimulus Funding? $0.0b, because we rely on State Departments of Transport with their heavy highway bias to come up with projects, so urgent national transport priorities are set on the back burner to pander to entrenched constituencies to entrenched state bureaucracies.
What in the Hell Happened to Changed We Can Believe In?
I want to stress that this is not a general whinge about the stimulus. The Energy Infrastructure part of the stimulus is excellent and the sustainable energy production part of the stimulus is OK ... far too much to the chimeras of clean coal and liquid biofuels, but on the balance, from what little I can tell, OK.
But for the Transport part of the stimulus ... WTF?
Well, its no surprise ... this is one last "surprise in the punchbowl" from the Bush Department of Transportation. From the California HSR blog:
Rep. Jim Oberstar, chair of the House Transportation Committee and passionate rail advocate, has been rather outspoken in his anger about the underfunding of transit in the proposal. He explains what may have happened to make the stimulus plan so weak:Basically CBO got numbers from the Bush administration DOT that said it was not possible to spend money on these projects within 90 days, meaning they're not "shovel ready". Oberstar explains that's BS and it's ridiculous to be taking numbers from the Bush folks at DOT that are getting ready to high-tail it out of town. He's really mad about this and I know he's going to fight to get more spending on infrastructure.
Take this fight to your Congressperson ... phone, mail ... you known the drill. We can't afford let the Bush Department of Transport get away with one last act of sabotage against our nation's Energy Independence and, of course, the global climate as a whole.