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Gas Taxes, Road Repair And The U.S. Infrastructure Crisis

The nation’s Highway trust fund is running out of money. Congress can’t agree on a solution. How do we keep America’s roads and bridges up and running?

This photo taken April 14, 2014 shows one section of the $500 million I-75 Phase II modernization project which is under way in Dayton, Ohio. On the road in a tour bus this week, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is urging Congress to quickly approve legislation to pay for highway and transit programs amid warnings that the U.S. government’s Highway Trust Fund is nearly broke. (AP)

This photo taken April 14, 2014 shows one section of the $500 million I-75 Phase II modernization project which is under way in Dayton, Ohio. On the road in a tour bus this week, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is urging Congress to quickly approve legislation to pay for highway and transit programs amid warnings that the U.S. government’s Highway Trust Fund is nearly broke. (AP)

The World Cup has a lot of people looking at Brazil’s overwhelmed infrastructure with dismay.  Check out the 214-mile traffic jam around Sao Paolo.  But then look home, to the USA.  Pothole-palooza.  Sixty-three thousand bridges in need of significant repair.  Delaware, with its leaning interstate bridge tangling up I-95.  Seattle, with its I-5 span in the river.  This summer, the US federal fund supporting road and bridge repair is going broke.  Congress can’t agree – surprise, surprise – on how to replenish it.  This hour On Point:  road and bridge infrastructure in the USA in trouble.  Who will pay to rebuild?

– Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Robert Puentes, senior fellow and director of the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program’s Infrastructure Initiative. (@rpuentes)

Emily Goff, policy analyst on transportation and infrastructure at the Heritage Foundation. (@emilyjgoff)

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), member of the US House of Representatives for Oregon’s fourth district. (@RepPeterDeFazio)

Michael Lewis, director of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation.

From Tom’s Reading List

MSNBC: Highway Trust Fund at risk due to congressional gridlock — “Unless Congress acts, the federal Highway Trust Fund will run out of money by the end of September, which risks stopping or slowing infrastructure projects across the country and keeping new ones from getting off the ground. And that means more frustration, wasted gas, and potential accidents for the nation’s drivers.”

The Oregonian: Rep. Peter DeFazio: Replace federal gas tax with per-barrel tax on oil companies — “Transportation funding has become a major battleground in Congress as the federal highway fund is running out of money.  The federal gas tax hasn’t been raised since 1993 and officials warn that the federal government will soon stop helping fund new projects unless additional money is found.’”

POLITICO: House GOP debuts housing and transportation bill – “Total resources in the transportation and housing bill add up to more than $105 billion, when highway and transit trust funds are counted. But most of the action is focused on a smaller universe of about $52 billion for discretionary grant programs and the daily operations of the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development. The estimated $17.1 billion appropriation for DOT is about $727.3 million less than was enacted January, and HUD’s $40.3 billion budget reflects a $769 million cut of its own compared to current appropriations.”

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  • Fiscally_Responsible

    Personally, I favor raising fuel taxes if the money will be wisely spent to repair roads and bridges. However, if the money is going to be spent for pet pork projects like “bridges to nowhere” or to overpay construction crews and have 5 guys leaning on their shovels watching one guy work, as seems to generally be the case whenever I encounter a road crew, then we should not raise fuel taxes to feed this beast.

    • John Cedar

      Personally, I think you should change your name.

      • WorriedfortheCountry

        A bit too harsh, methinks.

        The gas tax should be the ultimate “use” tax. Efficient and a burden only to ‘users’ of the service.

        The problem is the revenue isn’t used efficiently OR effectively. Unfortunately, this is now business as usual.

    • anamaria23

      “5 guys leaning on there shovel” “generally the case”.
      I have seen that occasionally, but most often see workers doing a hard, dirty job in heat and cold. Guess we travel on different roads.

      • hennorama

        anamaria23 — don’t forget it’s also a dangerous job, with workers getting injured and killed.

        Slow down in construction zones!

      • Kathy

        I get the feeling that most critics of construction projects would prefer they be done by slaves, like the pyramids of old.

        • anamaria23

          Perhaps and perhaps the next segment may highlight the value of the legions who make the world go round without glorification or huge financial reward.

        • John Cedar

          That feeling you have is most likely caused by constipation.

          I suggested drastically cutting the “prevailing” wage down to $30 per hour, which is a far cry from slavery and pyramids. Feelings aside, it is clear you have valid argument with a straw man.

    • TFRX

      Another fake anecdataer at work.

    • Don_B1

      A Marathon takes over two hours to run and then the runner is done for the day. If you want workers to constantly be digging without rest for a full eight hours (or more) you are asking for a machine not a human.

      Typically, workers take turns digging a ditch; note that if they were all working simultaneously, the ditch would likely have to be wider or otherwise larger, and at least some of the work done would not be effective in accomplishing the desired results.

      But the “easy snark” wins the day in your unthinking mind, or maybe just you hope that your readers won’t think beyond your comment.

  • Michiganjf

    How to fix the nation’s infrastructure crisis?

    … vote in the Party which is willing to invest in infrastructure!

    Where would we be today if our fore-bearers hadn’t made investments to benefit us, their future generations??!!

    We would be an undeveloped country!

    We’re lucky our fore-bearers were smart enough to invest in the future, not stupid, greedy, and self-serving, like some of today’s “conservative” generation!

    • HonestDebate1
      • Ray in VT

        Yup. It takes a while to get some things ready to go, but considering that many structures have been deteriorating for quite some time, then there’s probably quite a few projects that have been in the planning/permitting process for quite some time.

        • anamaria23

          The book “the Rule of Nobody” by Philip K. . Howard explains how we are held back by antiquated laws made by men long dead and describes some of the laborious permitting processes that delay projects for years on end.

          • HonestDebate1

            Those regulations are getting worse not better.

          • Michiganjf

            Zoning and permitting are state, county, and city/township, NOT federal, when it comes to the vast majority of infrastructure development.

            Infrastructure is worst in RED states… go figure.

          • Ray in VT

            I think that it makes sense to periodically take looks at laws and regulations in order to see if they are still needed or still make sense.

          • anamaria23

            Just what the author is suggesting. it is supposed to be done every so many years says Mr. Howard, but is not.

      • Michiganjf

        The guest is exactly correct… each year we wait, repair and building costs increase, and each year we wait, the more ruinous infrastructure means the revenue generated by our economy is that much less to cover the costs!!!

        A “double whammy” induced by neglect and procrastination!

        • Don_B1

          And don’t forget the repair costs that drivers have to pay to get wheel alignments and tire repairs because of the potholes that occur regularly.

  • John Cedar

    MSNBC? Seriously?

    $105 billion sounds like real money to me.

    We need Federal highway trust fund reform.
    We should cut the workers minimum wage in half to around $30/hr for starts.
    Take a look at what highway monies really go toward. Like adopt a highway signs every few miles. Or the edict that all road signs would be switched to lower case, based on a false study that they would be more readable.

    • WorriedfortheCountry

      Repeal Bacon-Davis. Instant infrastructure multiplier. Fewer patronage projects.

      • Ray in VT

        So how exactly is paying people less going to result in “fewer patronage projects”, and if the solution is paying people less, then why exactly should we expect quality work to be done by people perhaps making only a fraction of what skilled laborers were previously making?

        • WorriedfortheCountry

          Quality has nothing to do with Bacon-Davis.

          • Ray in VT

            It does have to do with adequate working conditions and pay, and I’m sure that those factors in no way impact the quality of work done. We can pay people a lot less and get at least the same quality of work out of them, right?

          • HonestDebate1

            “A lot less” than what? You seem to be saying we are getting the best value possible and should pay whatever we are told to pay.

          • Ray in VT

            I am merely, in part, being critical of what I see as another race to the bottom, right to work for less “solution” to workers making too much money, and I am concerned about how paying such skilled labor less could impact work quality and the public’s safety.

        • anamaria23

          It is hard to understand the condescension
          exhibited toward construction workers. Sure, there is waste in everything that needs to be monitored.
          I actually marvel at those who build our highways and bridges and structures such as the Tappen Zee Bridge reconstruct now going on in NY. No doubt about it the cost overrun of the Big Dig was disgraceful, but that does not minimize the astounding engineering feat that it is and the dangerous, long difficult kind of work that it is. Most deserve a generous paycheck.

          • Don_B1

            There are many factors that influenced the Big Dig cost overrun, two of which are big:

            1) The initial estimates were for a design that was much less comprehensive; as the design and construction proceeded, there were large additions made to that design to provide advantages and better travel for the future that had not been contemplated initially.

            2) When Governor William F. Weld was elected to replace Governor Michael Dukakis in 1990, the outgoing Secretary of Transportation, Frederick P. Salvucci recommended that the Republican administration hire an oversight body to watch over Bechtel’s management, but Governor Weld rejected that to “save money,” which, as usual, turned out to be penny wise and pound foolish, big time. It took a big suit by the state Attorney-General to recover even a part of the wasteful Bechtel overcharges.

          • anamaria23

            Thanks, I never knew the story.

    • anamaria23

      I regularly drive on roads and superhighways and great big bridges. I wonder how they got there, if the monies “really go toward” as you say. I’ll ask around and see if anybody knows.

      • Kathy

        They were put on earth by God and the early Americans read the Bible in English while riding down those highways on dinosaurs. Didn’t you read the GOP platform?

    • TFRX

      Let’s cut every red-state public worker’s pay in half and see how that plays out first.

      Labratories of democracy, beeyotches.

      • John Cedar

        I agree. Scott Walker for POTUS!

  • John_in_Amherst

    Pols who want their names attached to something other than dismantling government want Big New Projects, not to the “janitorial work” of keeping up what we have already built.
    Perhaps the teabaggers and “fiscally conservative ” GOPers would prefer to bring back private roads, aka “turnpikes”? Oh, wait, that was deemed unworkable back in the 1800′s. Hmmm.. beginning to understand why so many of these same people don’t accept evolution…

  • Human2013

    The I-40 Bridge collapse was one of the worst days in US History — please don’t forget it.

    • Jeff

      I’m thinking the 35W bridge collapse was much worse…

      • MrNutso

        I think the Mianus River Bridge failure is more indicative of infrastructure woes. The I 40 bridge was hit by a barge, and at the I 35W bridge the contractor was storing materials and equipment on the bridge which should not have been done.

        • Jeff

          Actually the storing of materials did not cause the collapse, the problem was a design flaw on the 35W bridge…the girders were half as thick as they should have been. Although, it was (and is) entertaining to hear liberals to this day complain that the cause of the bridge collapse had something to do with maintenance.

          • MrNutso

            Final NTSB findings. Gusset plates not designed for the for ever increasing load including the addition of 2″ of concrete to the road which added 20% to the dead load. Also contributing was the weight of construction equipment and material stored at the weakest point of the bridge.

          • Ray in VT

            You gonna believe a gub’ment source?

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    All the taxes in the world won’t matter if you don’t have engineers & inspectors on the payroll to DO their jobs.

  • S Mack Mangion

    Bike and:
    We are using gas tax money to support mass transit – a good thing in my opinion.
    But we are also using those funds for “bike lanes” and bike infrastructure. (A new I-95 bridge over the Merrimack River will have a bike lane at a cost of roughly 6 million dollars as I recall.) But bikes do not pay an excise tax to support the bike lanes.
    I suggest an excise tax on bikes as well as a modest increase in the gas gasoline tax.

    • Don_B1

      To the extent that bikes reduce the number of commuters using cars, they relieve the need for more and wider infrastructure (bridges, road lanes, etc.) to support the growing number of commuters, just as the support of mass transit does.

      Currently the number of commuter bicyclists is small, but this is not true in Europe (e.g., Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and other big cities) and as more bicyclists start using them for commuting to work, this can grow here. But it is the chicken and egg syndrome, where it is necessary for safe pathways to encourage bicyclists and more bicyclists to “justify” bike pathways.

      • Don_B1

        Note that France just started paying bicyclists to bike to work in Paris and maybe other big cities to relieve congestion.

  • HonestDebate1

    We’ll be fine.

  • MarkVII88

    There’s tremendous irony that, on the whole, Americans are being steered toward higher mileage vehicles via various incentives to buy them and added mandates by the government on automakers to improve mileage. Yet, at the same time, states are finding that with falling gas tax revenues they don’t have enough money to pay for necessary road maintenance. So what do they do…raise the gas tax of course! They did this in VT last summer and will do so again this year.

    • Ray in VT

      I recall that last year it was pegged to the price of a gallon of gasoline, but was that rate changed this year? I don’t recall hearing that it was.

      • MarkVII88

        I believe it went up by 3 cents last July and it will go up by 4 cents this July for gasoline. I also recall that for diesel, the price went up by the full 7 cents last year.

        • Ray in VT

          Okay, so it looks like the changes passed last year were set to be phased in over 2 years. I thought that it all took effect last year. However, at least according to this article, while the sales tax on gas will go from 2% to 4% is year, the excise tax should drop from 19 cents/gallon to 13 cents, so, depending on how exactly they calculate that first one, then the tax could go up by maybe 7.5 cents but down by 6 cents:

          http://vtdigger.org/2013/03/04/lawmakers-look-to-phase-in-gas-sales-tax/

  • Charles

    Rep. DeFazio’s idea is well-intentioned but misguided. The oil companies will simply pass the levy directly to consumers, and it will come to no difference. End users should pay more to maintain our roads; the more you drive, the more you use the road, and the more it has to be repaired.

    Obviously, we still need some federal funds to maintain the roads. After all, anyone can drive on them anytime, it is the quintessential public good.

  • Markus6

    The Big Dig in Boston started out with around a 2.4 Billion estimate and came in about ten times that (according to government figures, which I assume this forum believes). It stank with corruption. From other government funded projects – airports that few use, office buildings that are empty, to me it’s obvious, the Big Dig is only unique in terms of size.

    But we think in binary. Infrastructure spending is good. It’s a useful tunnel (very useful, actually), so it’s ok that it cost 24B.

    We really deserve to be fleeced.

    • Don_B1

      The Big Dig was an exceptional engineering achievement that ran into unexpected engineering problems, from excavating in historic ground (Indian burial grounds, antiquities, etc.) but also had design goals enlarged for good reason (probably as much as half — or more — of the overrun) and bad oversight because of a Republican governor’s penny wise, pound foolish decision to not have an independent financial oversight body, as I explained in a post to an earlier thread.

      There was a tremendous amount of new engineering approaches (at least new to the U.S.; some of the approaches were based on approaches used in Europe).

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Representative government = the hidden tax on all transactions. And a bloated one, at that.

    • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

      How do we pay for our shared infrastructure?

  • hennorama

    What’s happening at the state level?

    • MrNutso

      In PA they have jacked up fee’s and moving violation fines, and increase the wholesale gasoline tax (which will just be passed on at the pump). Governor Tom (no tax increase) Corbet refuse to allow a straight gas tax increase. Like the actual increases aren’t really taxes in some form.

      • hennorama

        MrNutso — Thank you for your response.

        I would imagine that governors are somewhat averse to the idea of increasing transportation-related fees that are directly felt by voters, after California Gov. Gary Davis was recalled when vehicle registration fees jumped significantly.

        Of course, the framing of the issue was very important. Arnold Schwarzenegger and various talk radio hosts renamed the vehicle license fee (VLF) as “the car tax.” This pejorative greatly aided the recall effort.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    USA = Indonesian population + 70M {or so}. Resident US population is higher, of course, and rising.

    And who is going to pay all those taxes to fix everything neglected by 45 years of Republican + Democrat enlightened rule? it ain’t gonna be the newcomers with nothing on their backs except sunburn.* And it’s not the wealthy retired folks of Boomer generation – like me, who buy little and drive less.

    * And nothing to say when they arrive except: No habla.

  • Joachim110

    Perhaps time to start taxing large corporations that horde their money in tax free shelters and take advantage of a legal “Tax Transfer Fraud” be getting refunds although they never paid tax here (BP). How about all these corporations that received tax reductions “because they create jobs”, the Republican myth that they still use and has never been true. With a republican house that has no other agenda than “NO” it will not improve. The only solution is that the people take charge in the next election and elect reps that are actually think about the country and its people and less about partisan politics.

  • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

    Carbon fee – this would include EV’s and plugin hybrids. The pool pays for infrastructure, and the remaining money is refunded to everybody equally. Similar to what Dr. Hansen is proposing.

  • AC

    who’s idea is that? ridiculous…

    • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

      You are referring to the postal tax?

      • AC

        the person who suggested getting rid of the saturday postal delivery

  • MrNutso

    The latter to choices are ridiculous. Regardless of one’s position on Saturday mail delivery or return of corporate taxes, we should deal with funding infrastructure on its own. It’s just away to keep their pledge (in violation of their oath of office) to Grover Norquist not to raise taxes.

  • Twinkie McGovern

    In these days of extreme inequality, all regressive taxes should be off the table — especially “user-fee” taxes like highway and bridge tolls!

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    So reward people who cheated. There’s a solution consistent with a thriving democracy.

  • MrNutso

    No corporate tax breaks. All monies owed to the U.S. should be paid in full to the U.S. Treasury.

    • OnPointComments

      Off shore corporate profits are not owed to the U.S.

  • AC

    vehicle miles used – open road tolling. AND DEDICATED, not general!!
    but then, rich people would move closer to employment hubs to pay less, meanwhile poor (low-wage earners) people would by pushed out further and further into suburbia, driving down the cost of real estate and development there, and they’d be using cheaper but less fuel efficient cars and still getting stuck in traffic – maybe subsidies for them?!
    take your donkey to the market if you don’t want to help pay for all i care!
    and beef up public transportation and rail!!

  • http://www.google.com Big Brother

    The graft isn’t enough. The money is never enough. How can we blame George Bush today?

    • injun2

      You just got your wish – the caller just blamed the Bush tax cuts. lol Funny thing was when Tom asked “what about all the growth that resulted from it” the caller said he didn’t know anything about THAT

      • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

        The Bush tax cuts are still with us today, so they are part of the revenue problem.

        • MrNutso

          No. They’re temporary. They’ll go away any minute now.

        • injun2

          I heard this yesterday on NPR before On Point
          “Although the federal government brought in a record of approximately $1,104,947,000,000 in revenue in the first five months of fiscal 2014, according to the Treasury, it also spent approximately $1,482,327,000,000—leaving a deficit of approximately $377,379, 000,000″

          More money to the Govt than ever, is that the result of the Bush tax cuts?.

          http://cnsnews.com/news/article/ali-meyer/tax-revenues-hit-record-first-5-months-fy14-5-month-deficit-still-377b

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            Huh? The economic activity determines the level of revenue.

            But if the Bush tax cuts were allowed to lapse (as they were supposed to when they were passed) then the revenues would be much higher that they are now?

          • Don_B1

            You don’t think the economy should grow?

            Just the population growth would mean that the economy and thus taxes would have to increase if people were going to maintain (not improve) their lifestyle. And where would the rich get their increased incomes, which they have to pay at least some taxes on?

            Are you really that unthinking? Or do you just expect the readers here to be that unthinking?

      • Ray in VT

        Bruce Bartlett has certainly been critical of the idea that the Bush tax cuts drove economic growth in any sort of significant way, as did a CRS report looking at top end rate cuts.

  • PaulCJr

    How about a tax on VMT?

  • http://www.google.com Big Brother

    Make the gas tax enough to pay for it and the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Let Washington Beltway drivers pay all their own taxes. They’re doing all that driving to and fro: Hoovering up all the public money.* They should contribute more than nothing to their Lardocracy.

    * Thank you, US taxpayers.

    • Kathy

      Just FYI, the beltway goes around the city where the big private telecom and tech companies are, not into it where the government is.

  • http://www.google.com Big Brother

    VMT is not right. Make the gas tax higher.

  • AC

    yes, but the average commute in parts of china is 5hrs

    • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

      Even the premier has to get back home to help bring in the radish harvest. Hoober Doober

    • http://www.google.com Big Brother

      I call BS on that statement.

      • AC

        why? it’s not new information…look it up

        • injun2

          O Googled “Average Commute in China” and “In Beijing, a megacity of over 20 million people, a daily commute to work takes 52 minutes, the worst of all Chinese cities” http://www.china.org.cn/top10/2012-11/02/content_26980425.htm

          • AC

            you could be right; i couldn’t find new numbers and don’t do the traffic studies myself directly…

            http://forums.macresource.com/read/1/1728855

          • injun2

            Looks like the first person on that forum thru out that 5 hr number, and the second one corrected him with the major study. Having spent a lot of time in Shanghai the last 7 years, I knew it wasnt anywhere near that. For one thing, most people don’t have cars ( can’t afford them) and use bikes or the metro

  • AC

    gas tax is a losing battle. i have a prius on average getting 51-53 mpg
    – go to vehicle miles used

    • MarkVII88

      AC, since DMV fees/taxes and the gas tax are state-based, assessing a dollar amount based on miles driven is not possible unless you can determine how many miles a vehicle drove in a particular state. If I live in VT but commute to NY, then almost half of my mileage isn’t in VT where my car is registered. Instead, I think it’d be better to assess fees based on Gross Vehicle Weight. This is already done to some level on commercial vehicles that weigh vastly more than passenger cars, and pickup trucks. As the “damage” done to the roadways is an exponential function of vehicle weight, does it not make sense to tax Hummers more than pickup trucks, more than minivans, more than mid-size cars, more than small cars, more than motorcycles?

      • Charles

        I think that’s a keen idea.
        Problem is there are -some- among us, the individual freedom types, who will never give up their desire for driving ostentatiously large vehicles. Have you been to Dallas lately?

        • MarkVII88

          There’s no need to give up your large truck or big car. You’ll just pay more each year or two when you re-register it in your home state. It doesn’t have to amount to too much money, think $40-50/year. That would add as much revenue as 500-700 gallons worth of gas tax charges. Of course, then you can argue that it’s a regressive fee that hurts low-income individuals to a much greater degree. You simply can’t make everyone happy all the time.

      • AC

        no, open road tolling – it shouldn’t be by registration state but the roads used in any state

        • MarkVII88

          That sounds like a federal project. I imagine there would be all kinds of States’ Rights arguments to be made. Sure, the feds regulate intrastate commerce, ie federal highways that cross state lines, but what about tolling on state and local roads?

          • AC

            not with today’s technology – your own phone can track your location, all you need is a special sticker. the issue that would arise that probably does mean a fed system is better is collection. the other issue w/this idea altogether is people don’t want to be tracked. which is dumb. you want privacy, stay off public roads….i don’t really understand the privacy issue myself but i know a lot of people really feel passionate about it…

  • Joe Mahma

    .
    Tom, seriously!?!?!?! Asking if we need more taxes???? No. We need better implementation of our tax dollars. Period.
    .

    • hennorama

      Joe Mahma — let me guess the refrain, OK?

      “We need to get rid of Waste Fraud and Abuse, tra la la ..”

      • Joe Mahma

        I guess…

      • OnPointComments

        That’s the second verse chorus. The first verse chorus is “There’s no such thing as waste, fraud, and abuse, tra la la, we just need to spend more more more…”

        • hennorama

          OPC — TYFYR.

          Clearly neither of us is a songwriter, and both of our concepts are ends of the hyperbolic spectrum.

    • AC

      it shouldn’t be taxed at all; instead it should charge a fee for every mile you have the privilege of using.

      • Jeff

        We do, it’s called a gas tax. Which not only pays for the roads but pays for other types of transportation like bike paths and light rail.

        • TFRX

          You’re calling from Galt’s Gulch, huh?

          • Jeff

            Yes, how did you know? Stay out of here, don’t follow me and please stay out…that gas tax is working really well in here BTW.

          • TFRX

            Since I can’t follow someone to an imaginary sixth-dimension fantasy…

            How little of the roads, let alone transportation, the gas tax covers has been dispatched with in this hour.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    I fill up my Altima 2.5SE* — every 2 months. I could stretch it longer but my fuel perks from Giant Eagle run out.

    * 2006, less than 11k miles.

  • AC

    use straddling buses over established roadways and dedicate a specific lane during peak hours for commercial only

  • Boston_mom

    I was just contemplating this after running over a ginormous pothole yesterday on my way to my Boston burb home from Maine. Safety aside, what will this do to insurance costs? I lost a hubcap running over a huge pothole a few months ago, that’s out of pocket. What does this mean to average families whose incomes aren’t keeping up with inflation?

  • AC

    leaky pipes losing water and gas and steam and electricity…

  • http://www.google.com Big Brother

    We should do benchmarking based on road usage and prevailing wages and manage based on performance.

    • TFRX

      Right after it starts working for schools.

  • Jeff

    There are no gas/oil subsidies…they are using tax breaks that many other businesses use…thanks for our daily propaganda call!

    New rule…if you complain about oil/gas subsidies then you MUST name them directly and prove that no other businesses can use that subsidy or tax break (which is not a subsidy).

    • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

      You bet. Can I put you down for our daily emailer? HD

    • Ray in VT

      So their profits are not being subsidized by special carve outs in the tax code?

      • Jeff

        I ask you to name them directly, then we can have that discussion….and show us they are subsidies not normal tax breaks that every business uses.

        • Ray in VT

          There are tax breaks for things such as a “deduction for the costs of preparing drill sites” that is some 100 years old http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2011/0309/Budget-hawks-Does-US-need-to-give-gas-and-oil-companies-41-billion-a-year. There is also a “manufacturer’s tax break granted the oil industry in 2004″ (same source). If you want to stick to subsidy directly meaning a government payment or something rather than a break, then fine, but such breaks do subsidize corporate profits by supporting them by allowing them certain privileges, some of which are available other businesses and some of which are not.

          • Jeff

            You even admit these are tax deductions (breaks) which are not subsidies! Many of the tax breaks are for R&D, when searching for potential drilling sites they are researching…therefore it counts as R&D just like any other business that does research. A freaking manufacturer’s tax deduction? You mean like every other manufacturer gets? Of course that should count if they have a facility where manufacturing takes place (packaging/separation of oil/gas products). I’m open to that discussion to remove these tax breaks and have tax reform on all businesses but I’m not going to demonize one single industry because some people don’t like the product!

          • Ray in VT

            I think that you’re sticking too hard and fast to a particular definition/meaning/usage of subsidy and just using it as a dodge to avoid billions of dollars in support via the tax code that massively profitable companies are reaping. Tax breaks can subsidize profits just as easily as a direct payment, yet it often only seems to be the latter that offends the sensibilities of some. I’m fine with looking at any number of breaks out there, but the ones being taken advantage of by companies making billion dollar profits are the ones that get my hackles up the most.

            If searching for a drill site, for instance, is R&D, then why not just use that sort of break, instead of having a special carve out particular to that industry?

          • Jeff

            They are using a standard tax break, it’s just that your websites list it as a special carve out. It’s up to the IRS/law makers to determine what counts as R&D and that has counted as R&D for about 100 years.

            Tax deductions are normal things that businesses use as a write off to offset costs (like wages, materials, etc.); they are not subsides. Meanwhile a tax CREDIT is direct money paid from the government for a specific activity (i.e. alternative energy) and that is a subsidy.

          • Ray in VT

            I don’t have any websites, but the one that I referenced lists this particular break separately perhaps due to Intangible Drilling Costs (IDCs) being a specifically listed form of deduction available only to those doing drilling, and not other businesses.

          • Jeff

            Every business can deduct costs of doing business, you know that right?

            Do you argue that computer businesses shouldn’t be able to deduct their costs to obtain computer components? Do you argue they shouldn’t be able to use normal manufacturer tax deductions because they make computers? Of course not, you’re picking and choosing here.

          • Ray in VT

            Some industries/businesses get special breaks. You know that, right?

          • Jeff

            Yes, they’re called TAX CREDITS not normal deductions that are a cost of doing business. We tax profits in the USA, anything that is a cost of doing business does not count as profit.

          • Ray in VT

            Yet some businesses have special caveats carved out for them in the law that allow them to write off certain costs or get certain breaks, which allow them to reduce the amount of PROFIT taxed here in the U.S.A., which allows them to pay a lower effective tax rate on those PROFITS, thereby subsidizing company profits.

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            A rose by any other name – is still a subsidy!

          • Jeff

            No, every business deducts the cost of doing business…we tax profits in the USA. Tax CREDITS are the true subsidies. Are you arguing that all businesses shouldn’t get normal tax deductions or are you suggesting we should treat oil/gas industries differently than all other businesses?

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            Oil companies have sweetheart deals all around; on leases in particular. They get special carve outs. Oil companies are earning RECORD PROFITS, and they are not paying proportional taxes.

          • Jeff

            Record profits is no reason to treat them differently from other businesses.

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            Burning fossil fuels is what is causing climate change – so the bottom line is that oil companies profits come at the huge cost of climate change and numerous other environmental damage.

            Roads are required for the way we operate our society – and they are where we drive the vehicles that burn the fossil fuels.

            So, it follows that in order to pay for the roads and other related infrastructure, we need to have a carbon fee.

            Oil and coal and gas companies are not like other businesses. They are externalizing their costs – and the environment and the rest of us bear those costs. Their record profits are the perfect reason to treat them differently from all other businesses.

          • Jeff

            Every business deducts the cost of doing business…drilling costs are a cost of doing business. In the USA we tax profits and only profits…after all costs are deducted. Are you suggesting that drilling costs should be considered profits?

          • Ray in VT

            I’m suggesting that the oil companies get special treatment that allow them to avoid tax obligations.

    • Eric

      Oil and gas industry subsidies amount to about $70 billion. They’re listed here: http://americanprogress.org/issues/tax-reform/news/2011/05/05/9663/big-oils-misbegotten-tax-gusher/

  • OnPointComments

    How about eliminating the Transportation Alternatives Program and using that money for roads and bridges?

    Fiscal Year–Transportation Alternatives Program Funds
    FY 2013–$808,760,000
    FY 2014–$819,900,000
    TOTAL–$1,628,660,000

    The Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) funds bicycle paths, sidewalks and nature paths, community preservation and landscaping. Federal funding for the TAP program comes from federal gas tax dollars deposited into the Highway Trust Fund—money that is intended for highway and bridge programs that benefit the motorists who pay the gas tax that funds the program.

    Examples of TAP funding:
    •$1,000,000–.75 mile bike bath
    •$2,500,000–”Picture Main Street”
    •$2,361,000–walking & bike facility
    •$954,042–bicycle and foot trail
    •$491,257–historic-style streetlamps, decorative brick sidewalks, and street trees
    •$265,000–10 interpretive signs on the Dismal Swamp Canal Trail
    •$532,000–improvements to one-tenth of a mile on the Main Street of a town with a population of only 1,150
    •$500,000–improvements to an unused Ohio bridge not connected to a road or trail
    •$388,000–construction of 5 bus stops ($77,600 each) in Oregon
    •$1,000,000–one bus stop in Arlington VA with room to shelter 15 people
    •$50,000,000–Paul S. Sarbanes Silver Spring Transit Center
    •$24,000,000–Clyburn Transportation Research and Conference Center

    • TFRX

      How about everyone in a car in an overcrowded road thank their stars for people who aren’t driving SOVs on that road?

  • S Mack Mangion

    After listening and reading:
    Let’s examine where the money goes: some commentors mentioned road sign and road sign replacement. Well maybe that is an expenditure that could be cut. And if it a small one, so be it, gotta start somewhere.
    . How about a “mass transit commuter tax.” I am fine with the feds supporting mass transit, but why not have a small tax on mass transit fares so that a fair/fare share can be contributed.
    . Sound deadening barriers – should we be spending money to deaden sound? If you buy a house close to the highway, thgat should figure into what you are willing to pay. I do not support gas tax money money going into sound barriers.
    . Bikes_ as I have written before, if we are building infrastructure to support bike lanes etc, then there should be a yearly tax, or better yet a license, on bikes as well.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    I recommend that the president fly to Tibet and deliver a big speech about Global Heating.* I know I follow that kind of moral leadership.

    * Probably only take 4 aircraft, some helos, 4 limos on that one day event. And an entourage of only a hundred.

  • Mari McAvenia

    More roads=more traffic. More traffic=more wear and tear. Case: The Big Dig in Boston did nothing to abate congestion and much of the new “infrastructure” is already falling apart.
    The cure: PUBLIC TRANSIT, PUBLIC TRANSIT and more PUBLIC TRANSIT options!

    • Don_B1

      Your first two sentences captured the big issue about building roads, which encourages people to live further from their place of work, etc. and live where multiple cars are necessary to get to daily functions.

      But the Big Dig did improve the travel time from the western suburbs to Logan Airport, as well as areas of downtown Boston. But then comes the parking (at least in Boston) …

      I strongly support Public Transit and used it when I worked in Boston.

      • Mari McAvenia

        Perhaps it has benefited the western suburbs. I wouldn’t know because I’ve always approached the city from the South Shore. There is more congestion on 93, both inbound and outbound, now, than there was before the massive project was completed. That’s guaging from personal experience spanning 4 decades. The Red Line and Commuter Rail will get you to Boston much faster than driving a car will. If you’re arriving from the South, that is.

        People like to trash-talk the MBTA but it is a good system that actually works. I’d like to see similarly effective public transit systems in more Northeastern states. Let’s face it, we just can’t squeeze another single-occupant car onto these crumbling, crowded highways. One person per automobile is the standard around here and I view that as wasteful and costly behavior, as well.

        If more people could take the train, instead, some would choose to use it. The rest may be too spoiled and selfish to even consider it after a lifetime of car-centric brainwashing by Big Oil.

        • Don_B1

          One thing they could have done, and which they regretted not doing, was to divide the multiple lanes entering Boston (before the tunnels, under Boston) into two separate two-lane roadways. That would have prevented the delays that drivers moving from the left lane to the right-side exit lanes from messing up the traffic flow. They discovered this in the process of building the tunnels and the weekly/even daily restructuring of the roadways during construction. But it was too late to incorporate that approach into the overall design as it would have been cost prohibitive (and when the actual cost is considered, that is saying something!).

          The other big thing they missed was connecting North and South Stations for the trains.

          • Mari McAvenia

            Absolutely, yes on all points. The disconnection between South and North Stations is a royal pain for train travelers and still hard for the layperson to understand. Again, it’s a “Cars Come First” thing, I reckon. At least Boston is trying to make the city more bike friendly. Hah! Not from the perspectives of either cyclists or drivers, who actually have to confront each other in the streets. But, politically, it’s a real charmer. (cynical sneer attached) Thanks for the cogent observations, Don.

          • Don_B1

            Part of the problem is that there are not enough bicyclists, as motorists seeing more bikes makes them more aware and more courteous (after they “get over” their initial rage!).

            The other part is the “cow-path” structure of Boston’s streets. Actually it is not so much that the streets were laid out long “cow paths” but that Boston was initially a collection of little islands and filling in between the islands made it difficult to connect existing streets, at least in anything that resembles a “grid.”

  • ML

    When we drive on badly damaged roads our cars get damaged and we pay for the repairs. The BQE is just one of many egregious example of a road that belongs to the “third world” but it’s right here in NY City.
    Any American who has driven on European roads has to understand that taxes aren’t such a evil concept. I just came back from southern Spain and can attest that even there the roads are excellent.
    Shame on the people who are transforming this country into a underdeveloped country.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Repatriate the Traitors! And their money.
    Gee, I wonder if Gen. Washington would have countenanced that.

    • Don_B1

      Repatriation of offshore profits has been shown by CBO (I believe) and other analyses to be a long-run loose, big time, for tax revenue, even though there is a small bump up initially. See Jarod Bernstein’s blog for a good discussion.

  • OnPointComments

    How about eliminating the electric vehicle tax credit and using the additional tax revenues for roads and bridges? One estimate is that the credit will cost $2 billion dollars through 2019.

  • X Y & Z

    How much is the for profit, privately owned, Federal Reserve buying up in ‘toxic assets’ from the big Wall Street banks every month, $80 billion? That money would be much better spent investing into America’s infrastructure rather than covering the bad bets made by Wall Street.

    • Ray in VT

      Your facts are a bit out of date. The buying program has been scaled back significantly in recent months.

      • X Y & Z

        I’m not surprised that you’re defending it.

        • hennorama

          X Y & Z — no one is surprised that your BS is in error, and that you can’t distinguish between pointing out the error (as usual) in your nonsense, versus “defending it.”

          • X Y & Z

            As on Point discourages bloggers on this site from “Feeding the Trolls”, I am precluded from responding to you.

            Goodbye Troll.

          • hennorama

            X Y & Z — and yet you felt the need to do so, again proving your complete lack of reasoning and logic.

            Well done, as usual.

          • X Y & Z

            As on Point discourages bloggers on this site from “Feeding the Trolls”, I am precluded from responding to you.

            Adios Troll.

          • hennorama

            X Y & Z — the droning from you never ends.

            Drone alone, dronebot.

          • X Y & Z

            As on Point discourages bloggers on this site from “Feeding the Trolls”, I am precluded from responding to you.

            Happy trails Troll.

          • hennorama

            X Y & Z — that buzzing sound you’re experiencing is coming from your keyboard, drone-bot.

          • X Y & Z

            As on Point discourages bloggers on this site from “Feeding the Trolls”, I am precluded from responding to you.

            Sayonara Troll.

          • TFRX

            In the immortal words of Yosemite Sam, “Shut up shuttin’ up”.

          • X Y & Z

            As on Point discourages bloggers on this site from “Feeding the Trolls”, I am precluded from responding to you.

            Hasta la vista Troll.

        • Ray in VT

          Who is defending what, exactly? You have merely made a factual error, which I have pointed out.

      • twenty_niner

        I believe current monthly purchases are $20 billion for MBS and $25 billion for Treasuries, not exactly chump change.

        • Ray in VT

          No, but not $80 billion. That number is just inaccurate. A $35 billion difference isn’t chump change either.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Re: Global Heating and sea level rise.
    When Rhode Island is completely underwater, will they need roads and bridges? Maybe just a wharf in Massachusetts and a sign with the governor’s face on it. “HAPPY BOATING.”

    • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

      How thoughtful and considerate of you.

  • creaker

    Corporations run the US – and they are basically slum lords taking short term profits over long term investments. They are destroying the country anyway so why bother putting any money into it?

  • Mari McAvenia

    A question for Mr. Lewis: When will the Washington Bridge on I-195 be opened up for bikes and pedestrians again?
    It’s been 2 years since the closure and it does not appear to be making any progress towards a re-opening. Please answer.

  • OnPointComments

    How about repealing Davis-Bacon and using the savings for roads and bridges? $10 billion dollars a year.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    We all know how Brazil is going to turn out.
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088846/

    bra-ZIL. Doo doo…

  • Charles

    This is a complex issue, in terms of how to pay for it.
    But it seems like we can’t even get to a consensus about the fact that there IS a problem that needs addressing.
    We can pay a little for this now, or pay A LOT later.

    Listen to your engineers, people!

    • hennorama

      Charles — your point is borne out perfectly by the post from [Markus6], above. Here’s part of it:

      “…given history, shouldn’t we be questioning the magnitude of the problem and what can be done to spend the money well?”

  • Brian Hallgren

    Why don’t we look closer at limiting our military-industrial complex and look closer at funding and infrastructure redevelopment process? In doing that maybe some of the larger military contractors would be directed towards researching and developing safer bridgesmore streamlined transportation systems

    • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

      We do need to stop buying most of our military hardware. We should shut down our nuclear weapons programs.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    So Long Beach should pay for I-80 through Wyoming*. Works for me.

    * Rock Springs, Laramie.

    • Don_B1

      A lot of the merchandise being shipped through Long Beach will be shipped through Wyoming and the lower costs of that shipping will help people buy more such merchandise to be passed through the port of Long Beach.

      This will result in a net gain for Long Beach.

  • creaker

    One thing we are going to have to face is that as a nation we can no longer afford the infrastructure we have built. We’re going to have to shut a lot of it down – but rather than “closing” roads and bridges, it makes more sense to use them until they are no longer repairable.

    • TFRX

      I don’t know if I agree with you.

      But if it has to be done, then we can all wait for this until a Republican is in the White House.

  • Markus6

    I read some of the comments. And I’m struggling with why so many automatically believe these people. I have no idea how much spending is right. But I do know that these people have given me ample reason to think they’ll say anything (bridges collapsing, cars lost in 50 foot potholes, whatever), to get the most money they can. And yet, most of the discussion is around how to get the money.

    What tells you that these panelists should be believed?

    And by the way, it’s entirely possible that they’re both honest and right. But given history, shouldn’t we be questioning the magnitude of the problem and what can be done to spend the money well?

  • SBB

    My concern about monies being raised for the road repair is how it’s spent. Here in Massachusetts, all the state and federal funded road work is by independent contractors. I had a friend who worked from one of these firms and it turns out the workers were being paid a a lower rate than what the contractor told the state. Projects are dragged out much longer than needed in order to milk money from the state. Growing up in central NY, the road work was done by the county and town and was efficiently completed. Don’t even get me going about traffic detail requirement of a police officer(s) on site to manage traffic. Many of the officers don’t even leave their cars, particularly when work is on the interstates…

    • Markus6

      Nice that someone is thinking about the history of these things.

    • MrNutso

      Police are required, because motorists refuse to slow down in construction zones. I’m guessing they can by law just post a police car at the work zone with lights going and not have an officer on duty.

      • SBB

        Actually Mr. Nutso (I like the moniker) that is the standard argument, but my experience has been the officers on local roads rarely direct traffic but rather chat up the workers on the project. I never see a police officer out of his car on the interstates. My friend who worked on them said they sit in their vehicles and read or watch DVDs. However, to your point, the lights going on the police bar really does slow down the traffic…

        • MrNutso

          I’ve done a lot of construction projects. The general contractor is responsible for maintenance and protection of traffic. Local police may be hired at the contractor’s cost to add a standout presence, but the will not direct traffic. I meant can’t not can in my previous comment, so for interstates I think the state police can’t just post a car. I think (hope) that the state police are paid (or reimbursed) by the contractor as well.

    • Charles

      An excellent point re: public crews vs. independent contractors. Here in my state (NC) there is a major push from state government to reduce the size and scope of the DOT and give more of that work to independent contractors, and as increasingly ‘red’ states continue to vilify public sector workers, expect similar themes to emerge elsewhere. What they don’t account for, however, is what you just mentioned…milking the projects. With fewer public sector staff to oversee contracts, it’s harder to keep this kind of behavior in check.

      • tbphkm33

        Plus inferior product, through things like skimming the concentration of concrete. Padding the profits right away, and in the end, that bridge needs to be replaced quicker.

    • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

      Why should we pay for profits of private companies, when the benefits should be going to the people who are paying for it?

  • Dab200

    Can someone be honest enough to point out what were the tax rates 50 years ago and earlier were majority of this country’s infrastructure was built!!!!!

    • MrNutso

      The gas tax (as was noted earlier) is a much lower percentage of the total price per gallon than even 21 years ago when it was last increased.

      • Dab200

        It was my rhetorical question and I meant individual income taxes. During the war the highest tax rate was 94%, after the war it went down to 91%, in 1964 went down to 77% and remained so till 1982. In the years after the war, America experienced the fastest growth and the most of the infrastructure was built during those times. In 1982 tax rate went down to 50% and in 1987 to 38.5%. Bush brought it down again to 35% when decided to go to war in Iraq. No wonder we don’t have any money when we go to war on credit card.

        • OnPointComments

          If we took your suggestion and reverted to the 1964 tax rates, would you accept the 1964 rates for all tax brackets, and not just for the top bracket? If we did, someone with $50,000 in income would pay 18% in federal income taxes instead of the 5.5% they pay with current tax rates.

          • Don_B1

            LOL ! LOL ! LOL !

            Strawman argument! A ringer for the single rate, non-progressive tax code.

          • OnPointComments

            No, you’re wrong. My question is that if you want the progressive tax rate for the top income bracket in 1964, will you also accept the other progressive tax brackets for 1964. Top income earners pay a lower tax rate than in 1964, but so does everyone else.

          • Don_B1

            The proportionality of 1964 would be hugely compressed under your scheme.

          • Ray in VT

            Where are you getting the 5.5% from? I don’t see that listed on the tax brackets.

          • OnPointComments

            According to summary tax return data from the IRS, the average tax return with $50,000 in income pays federal income taxes equal to a rate of 5.56%.

          • Ray in VT

            Do you have a link for that? I found numbers from 2009 and 2010 for the 30-50k range that listed the effective rate as 6.4 and 6.5% here http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-soi/13inwinbulratesshare.pdf. Page 4, figure B.

            For all of the focus on rates, from both sides of the aisle, for the brackets, they can be misleading in terms of what people end up paying, due to the various deductions available to people. The Alternative Minimum Tax can about because even under rates for top earners in the 1960s that were much higher than today some wealthy individuals avoided paying income taxes.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Since there’s a pyramid on the 1 dollar bill, does that mean we should bring in a helluva lot more immigrants to pay for the whole shebang? If so, maybe we need to replace Barack Hussein Obama with Bernie Madoff. He understands those kinds of financial structures. Bernie — he’ll make it work out for everyone.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    When you eat BBQ with your feet, dirt roads are good enough. You don’t need fresh water to wash your hands; red clay works just as well.

  • MrNutso

    Yes that’s right. A dumb slogan was used so that’s a reason to doubt the need for funding now.

  • Benjamin Williams

    We also need to be realistic about how much infrastructure to expect! We have exurban communities being developed far from any resources and demanding wide new roads, where historically these roads wouldn’t even be paved.

    Citizens need to know that if they’re forsaking the city for “country living,” they’re going to have to deal with less infrastructure as well. Subsidizing moves to rural areas by paving so many roads for such low densities is a waste of public funds.

    • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

      Not Jed Clampett. He moved his money to the city. HD

    • MrNutso

      The highway trust fund was originally conceived for the interstate system. Now, we have improvements and expansion of not only the interstate system, but also U.S. designated and state routes.

    • TFRX

      Not that David Brooks is ever wrong about anything (sic), but you can thank the ‘sensible moderate conservatives’ like him, who exalted the far-flung exurbs and their ‘Realtor Mom’ and ‘Patio Dad’ for this.

  • Mari McAvenia

    Why is the caller picking on Rhode Island? Name a state that has a better record of handling “public funds.”

    • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

      Yeah, what is the name of the last mayor of Providence now lodged in prison for Rhode Island style scumbaggery? HD

      • Mari McAvenia

        The mayor of Providence is named Angel Taveras. He has a clean criminal record and is currently running for Governor. The guy you must be referring to is Buddy Cianci. He hasn’t been the mayor for decades. He’s a well established radio talk show host now. Free as a bird, too. He did his time in jail and left Providence a much better looking city, if not a richer one. .

  • TFRX

    “The last time Congress and President Obama had $800B * to do stuff with and we didn’t see hardly any of it in the rural states, but it was a giveaway to the unions.”

    Tom, you turned around and pressed your guest Fuentes with these “facts”. How badly do you need to take caller Benjamin’s word as anything else but how poorly informed the caller is?

    (*That’s a lie, natch.)

  • hennorama

    Roundabouts rule!

    • Jeff

      They are awful…I saw one put in near my old home and I saw about a dozen near accidents and 1 actual accident on a road which was running just fine for years without a single accident with a couple of stop signs. This was a back road with zero issues…people don’t see them very often around here and they put one right next to an old folks home…bad idea.

      • Markus6

        I do remember reading a study a few years ago in a book on city design that made a good case for roundabouts in terms of flow. I don’t remember anything about safety, but this was years ago. Wish I had the reference.

      • hennorama

        Jeff — Thank you for your response.

        The learning curve may be at work here, as US drivers are mostly unfamiliar with how roundabouts function, and how to drive through them.

        My experience is that they work well in smoothing out traffic flows, reduce both the frequency and severity of accidents, and are fun to drive around when there’s no other traffic.

      • MrNutso

        They work in specific locations (I know of two in my area that work very well), but they are not a general solution.

        • hennorama

          MrNutso — a large part of the efficient functioning of a roundabout is the curvature of the roadways leading into and out of it. Converting standard intersections into roundabouts can be problematic, as there is often insufficient space available to adjust the layout of the roadways.

          In some circumstances, roundabouts/mini-traffic circles are used as traffic calming devices, to slow drivers in residential areas.

      • Ray in VT

        When properly placed and with drivers who know how to use them, they work just fine to keep traffic moving. One was recently put in near me due to a history of accidents at that intersection, including some fatalities.

    • MrNutso

      Yes!. Wait you mean in road intersections.

  • adks12020

    Try driving from New York into Vermont or Massachusetts into New Hampshire if you want to see a preview of differences in road quality. I love Vermont and New Hampshire but the roads are junk. I grew up about 20 minutes from southern Vermont and drove to Vermont often to hike, fish, kayak, etc. As soon as you cross the New York State line into Vermont the roads are immediately worse. I’m sure it’s because Vermont has less money to spend. I’m guessing they would be much worse if the federal money was removed.

    • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

      Vermont had lots of roads just washed away in Irene. They are getting rebuilt – so storms are a “hidden” stimulus, I guess?

    • jefe68

      It’s also due to truck traffic, a lot of it, going to and from Canada and points South. I know a state engineer who is tasked in fixing the roads. A huge problem is the interstate truck traffic. Weather is also a large factor.

      • hennorama

        jefe68 — I knew it!

        Blame Canada.

    • Don_B1

      I regularly drive Route 22 from just above the top of the Taconic Parkway up to 22A and into Vermont. The road in Vermont is much better than the road in New York.

      Growing up in western Massachusetts, we drove up some of the unlabeled roads to Vermont’s Mount Snow ski area and found the Vermont roads much better than those in western Massachusetts. Then there was Route 100 which had a dirt section just south of the Killington Ski Area.

  • Jeff

    A lot of the gas tax dollars are being used for other types of transportation (non-road projects) like light rail and bike paths. That’s why the funds are being bled dry.

    • creaker

      Yup – all those multibillion dollar bike paths are ruining everything.

      And by all means, shut down commuter rail around Boston – and during rush hour we can use the highways for parking lots, which they basically are already.

      • Jeff

        $3 million dollars for 400 yards of a bike path:

        http://www.inlineskatempls.com/?p=8573

        • creaker

          I stand corrected – that’s impressive. I wonder who profited?

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            Who skimmed the profits from the public spending?

          • creaker

            All public spending gets … spent – the money does not go into a landfill, it goes into somebody’s pocket, supposedly for products or services received.

            Would you waste $3 million if you could walk away with a nice tidy sum afterwards? Would you sell someone something they don’t need to get a paycheck? Many people would.

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            I was attempting wry irony …

      • jefe68

        The commuter rail in the greater metro Boston area is not in the best of shape. It’s rolling stock is over 20 years old and on some lines cancelations are a daily occurrence. The Indigo line, or Forrest HIlls line is a prime example of mismanagement.

        • Don_B1

          At least part of that is that, contrary to the agreement when the Big Dig was started, a big block of the Big Dig overrun costs were put on the MBTA’s books and the promised improvements to the light rail are slow in coming.

    • OnPointComments

      The cost of Charlotte, NC’s 9.6 mile light rail was only $760 – AN INCH, for a total of nearly $500 million dollars.

      • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

        Have you realized that the investments made by Eisenhower in today’s dollars would still be worth it?

        • OnPointComments

          The interstate highway system cost $119 billion, about $2.8 million per mile.
          Charlotte light rail cost $433 million, about $45 million per mile.

          Even with the time value of money, $2.8 million per mile in 1960 dollars is $24 million dollars today, half of what the light rail cost.

          • TFRX

            Comparing a roadbed and a rail system per mile?

            You’re scraping the bottom of the barrel with “math”.

          • Charles

            I’m guessing you haven’t spent a lot of time in Charlotte traffic. Whatever the cost, that thing is a blessing. Part of the reason it was so costly is that it was built in a part of town that is aged and was poorly planned. The rail had to navigate around a couple of major arteries which undoubtedly added to the cost.

          • Don_B1

            The Interstate Highway System was built largely in rural or semi-rural areas (even near cities which had much more undeveloped land that is true today.

            Light rail is built in much more densely occupied areas, which drives up the costs, but the alternative of more roadways has shown that more roads just bring more cars and they become crowded in a short time, requiring yet more expansion.

    • TFRX

      Another Galtian who can’t wrap their head around getting SOVs off the road. At thispoint I don’t care if it happens to you; I can’t imagine you figuring it out.

  • Pleiades

    Our community had three shovel-ready projects that enjoyed the monies from Stimulus package. In many cases the money was provided to projects that were actually “shovel-ready”. The planning end of many projects eliminated the any opportunity to receive any stimulus money.

    • MrNutso

      There were two roadway projects in my area that had no funding, until “shovel ready” funds were available.

      • Pleiades

        That was a good thing, right?

        It is my understanding that many project leaders on those stimulus-funded projects understood how to access the monies and exhibit immediate benefits of a completed project.

        Some states did not enjoy “smart” project leaders, and there projects suffered for such.

        • MrNutso

          Yes, although the one project (which I use every day) was more socially engineering designed than highway designed.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Why don’t we tax online streaming?

    • MrNutso

      We need a discussion board posting tax.

  • John_Hamilton

    We can talk all day about what it takes to repair our infrastructure, but we don’t have a Congress that has a sense of responsibility. They are focused on winning elections and being in power, not in doing anything that needs to be done. Because members of Congress are so dependent on corporate campaign contributions in order to run for office, they are effectively bought. He who pays the piper calls the tune.

    The posturing known as “Conservatism” is the most egregiously irresponsible, essentially a demagogic theatrical company, like the American Ballet Theater or the Metropolitan Opera. They have gained for decades by scapegoating “liberals” and large swaths of the American people, getting people riled about about “enemies within.” They are the enemies within.

    Until we establish a system of choosing who represents us in this mass system whereby problems are addressed in an unbought manner we will be saddled with this intrinsic corruption. Economist Jeffrey Sachs said recently that if you want to have a civilization you have to have taxes. In the fake “conservative” era in which we now live, taxes are seen as evil. Maybe if we had STEEPLY progressive taxation it wouldn’t be so easy for fake “conservatives” to vilify them.

    • Don_B1

      I am not sure that I understand your metaphors of The American Ballet Theater and the Metropolitan Opera, except as elite bodies that attempt to define some high level of accomplishment within a defined style of performance.

      The current “Conservative Movement,” which has roots back to at least Barry Goldwater, but more likely even back to the unregulated heyday of the Gilded Age, where the boom and bust economy ran wild, but its excesses were mitigated by the strong population growth of that time. Somehow, hedonism does not seem to me to be a desirable skill to be worked at to achieve.

      The much steeper progressive taxation of the 1950s into the 1960s certainly held down the achievement of that hedonism but it did not suppress the desire as it bloomed with the Goldwater movement, transforming itself into institutions such as the Federalist Society and the various “conservative think tanks.”

      • John_Hamilton

        I suppose I could have used Monty Python or Second City as performance companies, but the simile should be pretty obvious. Our current manifestation of “Conservatives,” or “Republicans” holding public office is, as I stated, about performance, as in acting performance, taking demagoguery, grandstanding and misrepresentation to a level of form over substance, playing to the emotions of the audience, the foolable “American” people. Maybe Vaudeville would have been more apt.

        This shouldn’t have been to hard to figure out from the context of what I wrote. I only wrote three paragraphs.This happens all the time. Some people, for reasons ego-related, pick something out to spout off about as if there were no overall context of what was written. A phrase out of three paragraphs, as if nothing else surrounds it.

        This is the comment section to a radio show, ad hoc, spontaneous, not intended for posterity. If you want perfect metaphors, read Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Hemingway.

    • jefe68

      I’m not sure how the Met or ABT are related to your comment on infrastructure and our dysfunctional Congress. Maybe you are trying to add arts funding to the mix…

  • J__o__h__n

    I’m tired of paying for projects in rural red states that vote against government yet take more tax money than they generate. If the nation needs to have a road through Wyoming, build it with no off ramps between the state’s borders.

  • AC

    Infrastructure across the world runs the gamit from what i’ve seen. it’s not the worst here, just bad and bad due to population capacities

  • creaker

    Back when a huge amount of the nation’s money was with the middle class infrastructure spending was used to get money out the hands of the middle class and into rich people’s pockets.

    Now that most of the money is in rich people’s pockets, they want to keep it there.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    How about a $5 capacity charge* for using a gas pump at a filling station?

    * Electric utilities have both energy and capacity charges for industrial and commercial users. That’s two different items on your bill.

  • creaker

    Public roads are just socialism, anyway. Maybe it’s time to go back to privatizing them.

    • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

      Like the first bridge across the Charles in Boston {private corporation paid off the bondholders}. Think I have that right. HD

  • TFRX

    Another Galt’s Gulcher is heard from: Emily Goff needs to drive in greater metro areas like NYC, Boston, Atlanta, etc. and take that “skimmed off” subway money away, then see what happens to the traffic. She’s not stuck in it, so it doesn’t matter to her.

    And Tom, if it’s “wrong for Arkansans to ‘pay’ for a subway system somewhere else”, why don’t you ask if it’s “wrong for Arkansans to pay for an intertstate that’s not in their very state?”

    • tbphkm33

      Wait a second, I do believe Arkansas is one of the states that get more federal dollars than they pay in. More-or-less, if it is a Republican leaning state, you can bet that they are taking more money than they are paying in, then having the hypocrisy to cry about the Federal government. Nopulican’s/TeaBaggers – “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”

  • OnPointComments

    Ms. Goff was speaking of the Transportation Alternatives Program when she said 25% is being skimmed off for non-highway projects. In FY2014, the funding for the Transportation Alternatives Program Fund is $820 million dollars for bicycle paths, sidewalks and nature paths, community preservation and landscaping. It’s a slush fund that politicians use to buy votes.

    • Don_B1

      Those items, bicycle paths, sidewalks, etc., provide the amenities that enrich the lives of all the members of the community. When you drive through the wealthy sections of a community you find those amenities, with the possible exception of sidewalks (which says more about the wealthy’s ability to have car travel) and that says those items are desirable and if they are to be provided, it is much cheaper to do it in an integrated way.

      • hennorama

        Don_B1 — also unmentioned is that alternative transportation reduces vehicular trips, reducing the wear and tear on the roads and bridges, and reducing the cost and frequency of maintenance, repair, and replacement.

    • TFRX

      Funny how you agree, without thinking, of the “skimming” verbiage.

      There’s just something also funny how every Galts Gulcher doesn’t need any other person to not drive on their road.

      • OnPointComments

        I agree, with thinking, of the “skimming” verbiage. Ms. Goff had it exactly right.

        • TFRX

          Hahahahaha.

          Another Galtian jagoff. Bitch about “why all those proles are driving on my roads” much?

  • Scott B

    The Blue state/Red state issue is already at hand. Just look at Kansas, where Brownback & Co cut taxes, and cut and cut and cut, and now they’re “suddenly” out of money to pay for things like schools, ROADS, et al and now, somehow, and are now asking, “How’d that happen?” The Right can’t make the mental, nor fiscal leap, that taxes, wherever their placed in the chain, pay for things like roads.
    In my area the poor counties have poor roads. You can tell by the ride where one county ends and the other begins without needing a sign. Even the next state over, with a much lower gas tax, if you bear of the main roads in rural areas, it doesn’t take a mile or two and it’s dirt roads.

    • TFRX

      Texas (i.e. “Mississippi with good roads”) has a natural advantage, being a state in much of which it is easy to build and maintain roads.

      But I can see them blowing that, bigtime.

      • notafeminista

        You can always hope.

      • Michiganjf

        They already have… Texas has pawned new road building off on the private sector, so any road built in the last ten years is a toll road.

        great for the wealthy who can afford to pay for the luxury… the rest of us are stuck on an ever more crowded, ever more crappy, deteriorating road system.

        … but yes, our roads don’t suffer much from snow and ice, most of the terrain is flat or rolling, and it’s pretty much all built on a stable, limestone foundation. Nonetheless, Perry and pals have robbed the state of enough revenue that they still had to pawn the roads off to private enterprise.
        Of course, everything bakes in the hot sun.

        • Scott B

          That’s what I’ve long thought when I hear such-n-such company is taking over the road. There’s a reason we have the freeway systems. Not that toll roads don’t have their place, but when seemingly every road is a toll, it gets pricey quick. I’d rather pay an extra few cents and the pump then have to dig for change every time I wanted to drive. Again and again, the Right cries “socialism!” and lays the majority of the problems in the lap of the government, choosing to deny history, fact, and experience in why we have taxes, like: public schools, food that doesn’t have formaldehyde and body parts in it, national defense, and a free road system; all of which have done us quite well for this country.

        • Don_B1

          Indiana recently leased, for 75 years, the rights to I-90 to a private consortium, which charges tolls and maintains the roadway. But it has the right to compensation if there is any other road built which competes with its road connections.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indiana_Toll_Road

          It is a prime example of what economists call Rent-Seeking behavior. The state clearly gave up a lot of revenue for a relatively small one-time cash inflow.

      • Scott B

        the southern states have it “easy” in that they don’t have the freezing weather that kills roads up here north of the” Manson-Nixon Line” (props to Robin Williams). I think those of us that do live in such areas know, and can more appreciate, what it takes to keep the roads maintained.

  • Twinkie McGovern

    Don’t quickly dismiss the caller’s suggestion that we levy a sales tax on high-speed investment trading. This would raise a lot of money, and would discourage certain reckless behaviors on Wall Street. This approach also has the benefit of being progressive, thereby helping in a tiny way to address our grotesque income/wealth inequalities.

    • OnPointComments

      Let’s save time and space with some of the comments by simply asking “Would you like for the government to take the money from someone else, and give you a free ride? Yes.”

      • Twinkie McGovern

        Troll alert.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Right. We had bridges before we had humans on the scene.
    –Bobcat Tom.

  • Pleiades

    Just like so many of our problems in this nation our US Congress is not willing to take the responsibility to solve this problem. They are all worried about being re-elected instead of solving problems.

    • MrNutso

      They are more worried about pledges (in violation of their oath of office) to reduced spending, not raise taxes, etc. Ultimately that might result in them being primaried.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Growth = failing infrastructure = higher costs = ecological damage = Global Heating. Capitalism. Everybody wins!

  • Twinkie McGovern

    I also notice that the Heritage Foundation’s agent in this conversation always seems to endorse the “solutions” that hurt the public the most while leaving the plutocrats in a comfy position: Tolls, sales taxes (i.e., gas taxes), highway privatization, etc.

    • hennorama

      Twinkie McGovern — and the language choices are also telling: “25% is skimmed off to pay for subways …”

      • Don_B1

        It is called “framing” in spin-talk which is a way to set the listener up to agree with the ‘bottom line” that is coming and which would not be the result in a fair and unbiased decision.

        • hennorama

          Thanks, Don_B1.

    • Michiganjf

      Not to mention her view that “people aren’t the problem for the environment, they’re the solution.” paraphrased.

      Loved Tom’s response of “What then… bobcats?”

      Heh.

  • http://hlb-engineering.us/ HLB

    Pull up all the roads before sea level rise covers them. Recycling wins!

  • Scott B

    Ms Goff’s ideas are way off. She “forgets” that the road system we have was a good, smart, and paid by the government. That she says the roads are deplorable because the government screwed it up with regulations, vs Republicans & pals not wanting to spend money on necessities like infrastructure, does tremendous disservice to those that did the work, in the government and on the roads.

  • Benjamin Williams

    Why invite someone from the Heritage Foundation to a discussion on transportation expenditures? Can’t we stop talking to this obviously far-right mouthpiece?

  • J__o__h__n

    Obama should advocate the Heritage Foundation’s infrastructure policies. Then they can be branded as “Socialist” just like their heath care proposal which became Obamacare.

    • MrNutso

      You struck upon the solution to the Heritage Foundation. Have Obama join them after he leaves office.

  • Derick Johnsohne

    if fuel taxes were proportional, the govts would make a boon from fuel price hikes instead of oil conglomerates keeping all the monies . govts shoot themselves in our wallets with fixed fuel (or tobacco) taxes . that would also help limiting some of the excessive driving that we all do .
    some states with minerals riches cant keep up with the transportation infrastructures ? where are all the revenues from mineral industries going to ? out of state, out of the country . change the system : stop being ruled by industries .

  • Michael Rose

    To begin
    Get rid of oil co. subsidies. Oil companies already amass great rewards &
    benefit from each mile driven over our roads and bridges. When oil
    companies need money to repair their infrastructures or rebuild when they suffer from natural or unnatural disasters, our prices bump at the pump.
    So too, should we pass on the much needed maintenance and repair costs with a gas tax on those who use, & benefit from, the system. It would work so long as our congress can keep its sticky fingers out of the cash pile.

    Next, the USPS is not a tax dollar funded entity (never has been) and ought not ever be expected to subsidize American highways and bridges or any other government project?

    A Saturday closing of post offices would not reap great
    rewards and certainly wouldn’t help one bit if the savings in their piggy bank were re-directed to other parts of our economy.

    Finally, I grow increasingly frustrated with the Conservative attempt to punish all of us for denying them the White House, twice. We, as Americans, need our infrastructure strong and working. Our economy, our safety, our comfort, and
    our very lives all depend on it every second of every day, regardless of who is living at 1400 Pennsylvania Avenue. This should never be a partisan issue.
    We need to fix this fast and we need to fix our political system for all of us.

  • liminalx

    Got to agree with Emily, and the Heritage Foundation “wisdumb”. Let’s keep the federal dollars flowing, but turn everything else over to the states, including the rules and regulations on how the roads function. This way the likes of Chris Christie can ensure all his cronies get the contracts. Better yet sell the streets and interstates for one dollar to investment capitalist like Bain Capital so they can privatize the roads and charge tolls for every mile driven. They can build smooth unobstructed lanes for their limousines, a few extra heliports and the rest us can go to hades in a nightmare of potholes and collapsing infrastructure.

  • AC

    straddling buses would run over existing hwys, making a new subway line. also, the suggestions you make are practical only in heavily populated/urban areas and not an appropriate use of resources everywhere. also, you can’t just ignore the hwys – people need to move goods, too

  • jimino

    I have read that a heavy truck (eg 13 ton) causes a minimum of 1000 times more damage to roads and bridges than a passenger automobile. Although they pay much higher fees for the use of roads, it doesn’t come close to the damage for which they are responsible. Yes, I know that the consumers and users of the products and goods delivered and moved by heavy trucks will pay more if truckers are required to pay more. But isn’t internalizing such costs integral to a market solution?

    • tbphkm33

      Yes, pavement for trucks have to be 6 to 8 times thicker than just for cars. Some states have experimented with building lanes just for cars, since that is so much cheaper.

    • Don_B1

      And that lower cost, because the negative externality (road damage) is not fully paid by the truck, means that the trucks can underprice the railroads which do not get to not pay a similar external cost.

      • tbphkm33

        One of the best things the US could do right now is a national policy shift in favor of railroad over that of trucking. Much more efficient. More importantly, in a world where fuel prices are only going up, the country would be much better in 20 or 30 years with a robust railroad infrastructure than 8 lane highways leading every which direction.

        • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

          Yes, diesel/electric trains are about 3X more efficient as large trucks. If we made our freight trains electric (with overhead wires) they would be at least 2X more efficient than that!

          Further than that, the last leg from the train depot to the point of delivery can be done with electric trucks. Which are far more efficient that ICE trucks, and they are smoke-free; so congested areas will be much cleaner.

          We can totally power our country with renewable energy.

          • Don_B1

            The DoT or DoE, or maybe in a joint effort, is working on a battery equipped electric traction engine which could get recharged at designated stops which would eliminate the need for overhead wires and any diesel engines.

  • tbphkm33

    Funny thing about the USA – you see these old bridges from the 1940′s and 50′s standing strong, yet these bridges from the 1970′s crumbling. By the 1970′s it was all privatized, no more public work crews to build roads – that be anti-capitalist. Yet, with privatization what you got was to pay higher prices to private companies that did things like secretly cut the amount of concrete in the mixture, just to pad their profits even more. In other worlds, private corruption at the expense of the tax payer.

    Goes on even today. A major reason I am anti-Republican. Nopublican’s pay homage to privatize only so that things can be swept further under the rug – so the tax payer cannot as clearly see them fleecing the government.

    • Don_B1

      The private-sector company is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, so it is much harder to dig out the full details of at least some scandals.

      Note that the total cost of building the infrastructure does not so much go down, but the money goes more to the rich, who don’t spend it, versus the workers who do spend more of their incomes than the rich.

    • twenty_niner

      “Funny thing about the USA – you see these old bridges from the 1940′s and 50′s standing strong, yet these bridges from the 1970′s crumbling”

      Congrats, you have officially elevated mental masturbation to an art form.

      “Most bridges are built to last 50 years, but in practice they frequently stay in operation long past that. The average age of American bridges is 43 years old and getting older. The average age of a structurally deficient bridge is 65.

      http://www.wnyc.org/story/300359-fewer-us-bridges-being-repaired-one-nine-still-structurally-deficient/

    • warryer

      You clearly do not understand engineering.

      Bridge engineering standards did not suddenly become worse in the 1970s.

  • Arkuy The Great

    Aw, frack it. These guys understood exactly how to raise sufficient revenue. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7j8yVlBcfI

    • jefe68

      With Hungarian subtitles as well…

  • Mari McAvenia

    Gee, I should have stayed in the trade AND in the Union. Back when I was building bridges on I-495 my pay was $5.00 per hour as a carpenter apprentice in the UBCJA (United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America).

  • jimino

    Your comment is very confusing to me. What exactly is a “private job that will eventually be turned over to a city”? Where did the money that paid for it come from? If paying the wages you cite increases the cost by a factor of 7 to 10, does that mean you paid $3.40 to $5.00 per hour? Answering may help us understand the road building process.

    • 1Brett1

      Sounds a little bit like an indirect attempt at union bashing to me…so, hey, a little bit of hyperbole and, voila!

      • jefe68

        So many variables in this kind of work.
        I’m not sure where it is that developers are able to build public roads. Maybe he meant contractors.

    • John Cedar

      Developers build roads and turn them over to municipalities every day.
      I’m doing one right now. The traffic light out in the ROW is $75k. The
      traffic study was $75k and the 4 lane stub highway with hydrants and lined storm water ditches will be about $350k

      If the gubmint did this job it would easily cost $2 million and take two years.

  • HonestDebate1

    I have a bridge. It’s a vintage 1910 pratt truss bridge, 121′ long, it’s a single lane. The State of NC gave it to me. I hope to erect it for under 10K.

    No point really.

    • 1Brett1

      So, you didn’t build it?! Will it lead to nowhere?! If it wasn’t for your rugged individualism that bridge would be wasted in some bureaucrat’s paperwork, ammiright?!

      Kidding aside, that’s pretty cool…you should post a photo when it’s done.

      • hennorama

        1Brett1 — Just goes to show, again, that free stuff from the government is OK when it’s not being given to someone else.

        • HonestDebate1

          What a bizarre comment. You remind me of the caricature cartoon someone posted earlier.

      • HonestDebate1

        I read about it in the Charlotte Observer and on a whim called. They told me I had no chance, the first option was a State, the second was a city or county municipality, the third was an historic organization, the fourth was an individual. I told them to put my name down anyway. Then I was on their mailing list and got updates of other bridges but none were as cool. I kept following up and after about two years I was asked to resubmit my proposal because the City of Statesville (who had shown interest) was not getting around to signing the contract. I told them about our 30 years working with the State 4H and all the summer camps. I explained how many happy kids there would be getting to trail ride over the historic bridge which will be along part of an old (1834) US Postal route. They gave it to me. It was disassembled and delivered. That took another few years. I bought the wooden deck which was supposed to be destroyed. I think it was just built in gravy for the contractor who removed it intact. They are highway grade treated 4X6′s, I gave $10 a piece for 170 of them. New ones would cost $34 a piece. I pay for erecting it, I have to paint it with lead encapsulating paint and put it up exactly as it was. It is Historic Registry qualified. There is a whole different story about where it will go and the river front land I procured as a destination. I’ll save that.

        http://www.gribblenation.com/nclost/bridges/228.html

        • 1Brett1

          That is very cool! Congratulations. I like the idea that it will enhance a lot of trail riding experiences. And, I hope you can get it on the historic registry.

    • jefe68

      You will have your own bridge to nowhere.

  • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

    Do they need an education to work with a [pick] and shovel? Is it hard work, in hot and sometimes dangerous conditions? Are they providing needed hard labor? Do they have enough money to provide for their families? Do they have medical and disability insurance?

    • HonestDebate1

      Working a shovel is non-skilled labor. All that is required is a strong back and a weak mind. It should not pay well.

      • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

        Sez you!

        Have you done any construction work? Yes, it is hard work and requires a strong back – and being smart doesn’t hurt, either.

        Do we determine a person’s earning limit by their IQ? A strong back deserves to live just as well as a smart brain – they are both people!

        Are we too used to employing immigrants – who we can underpay because they get in trouble if they object!

        • tbphkm33

          You know, the Nopublican/TeaBagger cabal love economic slavery… until they wake up and realize they are the one’s wearing the shackles.

        • HonestDebate1

          Yes, I’ve done construction work. I also hold a commercial Contractors license. And in my youth I have spent days working a shovel. I have been handed a hoe and pointed to 10 acres of cabbage. I know hand tools, hard labor and brutal heat very well. It builds character. It also takes no brains so as a young man I was well equipped. Anyone can do it, that is why I got only $2.50/hour. I still have a strong back but I’ve nurtured many other skills, marketed them and staked my claim in my little corner. Now when I work in the brutal sun, days on end, it’s to get hay in the barn… after I built the barn. Or, speaking of shovels, dig a 2′x2′x20′ ditch for 20 years worth of future asparagus. In other words, I use my manual labor for my life (I don’t like gyms) and my nurtured skills for money. The willingness to work for nothing got be by until I got some skills, developed a work ethic and built a reputation. I never felt I deserved squat.

          And just so you know, being a contractor is a much harder job than being a ditch digger.

          • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

            You certainly are a empathetic character, aren’t you?

            Do you think $2.50 an hour is all a construction laborer should get? Who are you to decide that?

          • HonestDebate1

            In 1977 I was 17 and on the roof of a chicken house pulling out nails and removing the tin for $2.50/hr. We completely disassembled five houses then went down the road 20 miles and put them back up. I was back on the roof putting nails in the same holes. There are a lot of nails in a chicken house.

            And no, I didn’t advocate a $2.50 wage. I said a non-skilled worker is not worth $34/hr.

            Who is the government to decide what someones is worth?

          • Ray in VT

            The government setting a wage floor below which people should not fall has been an accepted part of American life for 100 years, as society has broadly accepted that people should take home a decent amount of money for their labor, and not just as little as the all knowing market can get away with paying. It’s a part of the same movement to create better and safer working conditions for workers.

            Also $2.50 in 1977 dollars is worth nearly $10/hour when adjusted for inflation.

          • jefe68

            In 1977 minimum wage was $2.50 per hour. Adjusted for inflation that would be about $20 per hour today.

          • HonestDebate1

            So then you agree, $34/hr. for shovel work is highway robbery.

          • jefe68

            Depends. $34 an hour does seem a bit high. I’m not sure where this was.
            It’s a problem that’s for sure. How messed up our process is for public works projects. I live in Boston which had one of the worst and most corrupt projects in Boston’s history to my knowledge.

            That said I think government has to be involved with large public projects. What we need is transparency and better oversight. In the Big Dig the graft was done by private corporations cutting corners and cooking the books.
            So the problem is also in the private sector viewing public works jobs as cash cows.

          • TFRX

            You know who else doesn’t do that math? Hint: He’s salt of the earth Irish American, and his family’s incom was only 35k annually, so he pretends he was never advantaged.

            In the early-mid ’60s. Thirty-five thousand a year.

            Bill O’Reilly.

  • Godzilla the Intellectual

    National sales tax!

    Make the car dealerships pay for the highways. Put them out of business so Tesla isn’t blocked from selling its cars.

    Tax the profits of the oil companies. Use 3D printers to make the highways, with carbon nanotube, geopolymer cement, and sensors in the highways.

  • OnPointComments

    You have direct experience with this that I don’t have. However, I have had many, many construction clients that pay employees $15 an hour, day in and day out, except when federal money is involved and Davis-Bacon comes into play, then the pay rate doubles.

  • http://www.altruistparty.org/ The Altruist Party

    What about a monthly ‘Infrastructure Lottery’? $50 per ticket; half of the proceeds goes toward infrastructure needs and jobs, the other half toward (only) one ticket winner?

  • Carla

    Just turned this on, last five minutes. The female guest was very gracious and smart in her response to Tom’s “what is it…bobcats?” question. Tom was so rude and showed his cards again. Off Center with Tom Leftbrook

    • hennorama

      Carla — Ms. Goff was discussing infrastructure projects being delayed due to “environmental reviews involved and other Federal mandates…” Mr. Ashbrook then asked about consequences to the environment if such requirements were reduced.

      Ms. Goff then made the preposterous statement that “I take the approach that humans are not necessarily the problem.” Mr. Ashbrook jumped in to get clarification, asking “The problem in what?”

      Ms. Goff responded, incredibly, “When it comes to the environment.”

      Only then did Mr. Ashbrook ask, “What is it, bobcats? Or rabbits? What’s the problem then?”

      Ms. Goff then went on to talk about CO2 emissions, implying that she was speaking only about CO2 emissions in her prior answers, which would make sense if she was that narrowly focused.

      In other words, she had replied to questions that weren’t asked, and was the opposite of smart in her earlier comments.

      • brettearle

        Reminds me of Frederick March, as William Jennings Bryan, answering Tracy, as Darrow–IF he were to answer, over and over again, to any question, about Creationism,

        [Paraphrase]

        “Bible says the heavens were created in 7 days, then they were created in 7 days.”

        • TFRX

          Frederic March?

          That gets a like, simply for the sake of old-school actordom.

          • brettearle

            Can imagine Mitch McConnell or Sean Hennity instead of March?

      • Michael Rose

        Honestly,

        it’s hard to take anything presented by anyone representing the Heritage Foundation seriously. Listening to them brings to mind Mr. Haney from Green Acres doesn’t it?

  • http://cdevers.posterous.com Chris Devers

    Raise money by instating a congestion charge in all the cities, and by upgrading to variable rate parking schemes. It’s counter-intuitive, but these two changes would both reduce traffic and raise funds to pay for the upkeep on the roads — take a look:

    http://www.wired.com/2014/06/wuwt-traffic-induced-demand/

    Use the money raised to pay for improvements to the roads we have, but place a moratorium on building any new ones or widening any existing ones. Consider using some of the funds to improve public transportation systems, but don’t expect that to be a panacea that’s going to magically solve everything.

    These are solvable problems.

  • Kevin Burber

    If the fact that Congress is unable maintain the most basic infrastructure – roads and bridges – doesn’t say that our government is broken, I don’t know what does.

    End Saturday delivery of mail? I’m ok with that, but it’s not going to solve this problem. Our politicians need to change their focus – from what’s good for them personally in the short-run to what is good for our country and all it’s citizens in the long run.

    • brettearle

      Not all entrenchments are due to Politicians’ self-interest.

    • jefe68

      It’s all about the special interest and sweetheart deals.
      What we have here is a plutocracy.

  • HonestDebate1

    I was happy to have it. I actually started at $2 and got a raise because I worked hard. Most of the workers were inmates bussed in every morning. They got $2.

  • Zack Smith

    I sincerely believe that a lot of the motivation behind this issue is cronyism between various special interests – construction companies and construction employee unions mainly.

  • Tim Ray

    look at Boston, tunnel, original price tag 2.1 billion,so far 15 billion…infrastructure? they build bike paths, parks for doggies, buy more buses and hire more drivers, pay for trains that lose money by the millions…look people, next time you take a selfie, use a lollipop. you are looking more like suckers than anything else

  • Richard Jablonski

    Public investments in the national infrastructure deserve lots of support from taxpayers; this should fund work on natural gas distribution piping, sewers, potable water supply, electricity transmission lines, and railroads to name a few. Much of these are in sad shape, posing major safety risks and threatening the operation of the U.S. economy. Highways also need heavy duty repairs.
    We should all be e-mailing our representatives in Congress which is easy as pie when you use the House and the Senate websites; members welcome our suggestions.

  • Pahan

    I listen to On Point religiously (as a podcast), but I found this show’s selection of guests very disappointing. Basically, there were two sides portrayed:

    1) Puentes, DeFasio, and Lewis: Let’s raise as much Federal money as we need to maintain the infrastructure that we have *and* continue expanding it.
    2) Goff: Let’s hand it over to the states, because the Federal government spends too much time on bleeding-heart liberal things like subways and not enough on car-only infrastructure.

    There was nobody to represent the point of view that we should build smarter, not harder — that acknowledges that there are many places where we’ve *overbuilt* the car infrastructure, and that a big part of the problem with federal funding isn’t that it funds things like public transit but that it has a bias for shiny new projects over boring old maintenance. (Not that states are without sin on this.)

    There was a caller who had mentioned brand new bridge being built in Minnesota, while nearby roads were in a terrible condition, which exemplifies this problem. From the caller’s description, she is talking about the St. Croix Bridge, projected to cost $670 million. This projected cost is greater than the projected cost of bringing *all* of the Minnesota’s existing structurally deficient bridges up to code (about $500 million). Yet, even though the existing failing bridges serve hundreds times more people than than this new bridge would, the new bridge gets the funding priority because 1) Federal grants partially subsidize its construction (but not maintenance) and 2) politicians get to name it. None of the guests on the show were equipped to address this issue.

    In the future, I think that a discussion of transportation infrastructure and infrastructure spending should include someone like Charles Marohn from StrongTowns.org , who raise the issues neglected by this show’s makeup of guests.

  • ExcellentNews

    Letting our infrastructure deteriorate and decay – that’s the Republican definition of RESPONSIBILITY. It should not be surprising – they think that infrastructure is simply part of the ENVIRONMENT….

ONPOINT
TODAY
Jul 28, 2014
This June 4, 2014 photo shows a Walgreens retail store in Boston. Walgreen Co. _ which bills itself as “America’s premier pharmacy” _ is among many companies considering combining operations with foreign businesses to trim their tax bills. (AP)

President Obama is pushing hard to close a loophole that allows companies to move their operations overseas and pay lower taxes. We’ll look at what’s at stake.

Jul 28, 2014
U.S. Secretary of War Newton D. Baker watches as wounded American soldiers arrive at an American hospital near the front during World War I. (AP Photo)

Marking the one hundredth anniversary of the start of World War One. We’ll look at lessons learned and lessons for now.

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