In this new article on United States transportation infrastructure and spending, Gabriel Roth explains the wasteful spending endemic to the central planning approach taken to transportation. Rather than a leaky bucket, Roth proposes using market forces based on local transportation needs:
“President Obama’s recent announcement of a $50 billion ‘up-front investment’ for ‘renewing and expanding our transportation infrastructure’ raises the obvious question: Why should government officials determine the amounts to be spent on roads, railroads, airport runways and air traffic control?
“It would be nice to have 150,000 miles of well-maintained roads, free of excessive congestion, but the Obama government provides no guidance on how to prioritize the required expenditure.
“Railways: Construct and maintain 4,000 miles of rail—enough to go coast-to-coast.”
“Why 4,000? Why not 1,000? Or 10,000? The administration has provided no rationale for spending anything on fixed-rail passenger service, a technology beloved by socialists everywhere for its easier control of trip origins and destinations.
“When provided by governments, transportation improvements have to compete for funds against other political priorities.
“On the other hand, under a market system, consumers themselves determine priorities by their willingness to pay for them. For example, many road users might prefer to spend less on vehicles and more on roads.
“It is easy to identify at least two types of expenditures to which transportation users would give high priority: First is upgrading unsafe facilities. In 2008, the Department of Transportation categorized 72,868 road bridges as being ‘structurally deficient.’ The National Transportation Safety Board has also questioned the safety of urban rail systems, such as the Washington Metro. Federal grants currently encourage states to extend unsafe systems rather than upgrade them.
“Instead of vying with Congress to determine expenditures on transportation infrastructure, the president should encourage Congress to leave these decisions to the states—which could employ market mechanisms to provide the transportation facilities users are prepared to pay for. . .”