Financial District: Fix it first
“To fix our roads and bridges, America first must fix our transportation policies. To counteract the tendencies to neglect repair and maintenance, we must adopt strong “fix it first” rules that give priority to maintenance of our existing roads and bridges, set national goals for the condition of our transportation system, and hold state governments accountable for achieving results.”
A basic charge in the report is that “special interest pressure tilts the playing field toward the construction of new and ever-wider highways at the expense of repair and maintenance.” But special interests do not get all of PIRG’s blame. “Congressional earmarks – in which members of Congress designate funding for special projects – further tilt spending away from maintenance.” PIRG does not stop there: “State transportation funding policies are often similarly short-sighted, focusing on the creation of politically popular new highways rather than maintaining existing roads and bridges.”
The report also faults Washington, claiming the federal government is derelict in its oversight of funds sent to states. “Responsibility for the road and bridge crisis begins at the top, with federal transportation policies that allocate vast amounts of money to the states with little direction and no accountability.”
The PIRG report delivers a series of specific recommendations to help create what it calls “a top-to-bottom shift in funding priorities and policies,” including:
Prioritize highway and bridge maintenance and repair.
States should be held accountable for properly maintaining roads and bridges, and should be required to demonstrate progress to the public according to specific, measurable benchmarks.
Reorganize federal highway programs to focus exclusively on either maintenance or new construction.
One program should cover all new infrastructure construction, ensuring that new highway or bridge projects undergo rigorous evaluation and prioritization at the federal level —much like the New Starts program for public transportation projects. Another program should consolidate infrastructure preservation efforts to better dedicate resources to repair and maintenance.
Require states receiving federal aid to plan for future maintenance before building new roads.
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