Stories & Life
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States Struggle for Financing to Meet Road Needs

While the problem is plain to all, the money and the political will to fix it isn’t there….

Pew Center polls in the last year show that 67 percent of those questioned said their state should not cut money for roads and pulbic transit to balance its budget. But only 38 percent want federal spending increased and only 27 percent favor an increase in the gas tax that often pays for it.

At the same time, three-quarters say more spending on roads, bridges, and other public works would help create jobs.

“The American public has turned selfish. They don’t really want to invest in this stuff,” said Robert Atkinson, a technology think tank executive who helped lead one of the federal transportation commissions. “It’s akin to leaving your house to your kids when you die without fixing the roof because you wanted to spend the money instead on Florida vacations.”

Excerpts from the Associated Press article.

On top of this, there is a concern from we environmentalists that our crumbling infrastructure will be in even more jeopardy as the climate changes and weather patterns become more erratic, particularly from increased hurricanes and flooding. Unfortunately, there seems to be a fairly fixed view on the political right that any and all governmental spending is necessarily wasteful, with the exception of spending on the military.

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Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy; I pass the winters in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. I'm working on a memoir-based nonfiction book on the American Dream. I blog, quite frequently, and I also have a novel in process, set in Alaska.


  1. One word: privatization. Interest rates are at historic lows, while corporate profits are at historic highs. Both parties want to restrict government income by capping borrowing while lowering taxes. This forces government to sell off those publicly-owned assets that it can no longer maintain. Highways are one of the most valuable assets owned by governments. So picture this: The government outsources road building and repair. It guarantees low-interest loans to private industry, plus gives them big tax incentives/deductions for rebuilding America’s infrastructure. Industry then owns all or part of the roads they build. Industry turns the American road system into a set of interlinked toll roads. Outfit each vehicle with a GPS, which functions as a remote monitoring system for calculating tolls. The private highway companies send you a bill at the end of the month, just like for telephone, electricity, etc. It’s another potential source of huge profits for private industry, built on an infrastructure paid for by taxpayers. Citizens who benefited from government investment in the road system are turned into paying customers. I don’t think this is far-fetched at all. Obama already floated the idea a couple of months ago as a way to pay for “investing in America’s infrastructure.”


  2. Pingback: Toll Road Nation « Ktismatics

  3. erdman31 says

    I do not think that it is far fetched at all. We see a similar pattern historically. The public financed the building of the railroads, in addition to the very cheap labor provided by immigrants and the poor, and the private sector and wealthy elite reaped the profits.


  4. Good points. Not surprisingly, the railroad hiring policies provoked a lot of animosity among the locals. Unfortunately the wrath was poured out on the foreign workers, who were just trying to make a living, rather than on the companies that hired them. It’s been happening again on some of the big bridge and highway jobs in the US: contractors bring in workers on temporary visas, put them up in company housing, and pay them much less than US pay scale. They’re even prefabricating bridges in China and shipping them over for installation in the US.


    • erdman31 says

      What’s amazing is that in America it seems more likely that those in the lower classes will fight against each other than that they will turn on the rich who are taking all of the profits and cooking up the exploitation schemes.


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