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November 22, 2008

A WPA Project For Transportation

How can our nation pull itself out of this economic tailspin, create new jobs and actually give something to generations? Why, by repairing and reinvigorating our country’s transportation system. What we need is a new, 1930’s style WPA Project for transportation!

The recent election saw a number of states and cities endorse spending for mass transit, mostly for overdue improvements transportation, but with the side benefit of thousands of jobs.

In California voters approved an almost $10 billion bond package to build high-speed rail between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The full plan will cost $42 billion and employ a half-million workers. Construction of the 220 mph train system could begin in 2011.

In Los Angeles voters also approved a half-cent sales tax hike to fund new roads and rails. Over the next 30 years that should mean $40 billion for transportation alternatives to road-weary commuters.

Contrast those visionary voters’ decisions with the muck and mire of us living here in “the land of steady habits”.

We’re not building a transportation bridge to the future but paying for the collapse of one 20 years ago! Today, 40% of the budget of the CDOT still pays debt service on bonds issued after the Mianus River Bridge on I-95 fell down due to engineering neglect.

Right here in Darien we’re watching CDOT spend over $5 million to replace the Hollow Tree Ridge Road bridge over I-95. So far, the seven month-long project seems to be employing just a handful of workers and more time has been wasted since the bridge was closed to traffic than has been spent in actual construction.

Face it. We need to fix what we have before dreaming of a maglev running down the center of our freeways.

The Merritt Parkway opened in 1938. Interstate I-95 came along twenty years later. Both are in bad shape and jammed with far more traffic than designers had ever imagined.

We all know that new M8 rail cars are on their way for Metro-North. Sadly, they are being built by a Japanese company (Kawasaki) and not in Connecticut (but Nebraska). Imagine if those millions were spent in-state for local labor.
And PS… your grandchildren will still be paying for the M8 cars when they’re of commuting age.

But enough grousing. It’s a new day in America, even if it is cloudy and cold. The Obama – Biden team understands the value of transportation spending and hopefully will turn on the federal spigot.

According to APTA, the American Public Transportation Assoc., an industry group, $1 billion in federal investment creates 35,000 jobs. And APTA says there are 559 “ready to go” transportation projects worth $8 billion.

So let’s go! The way to jump-start our ailing economy is not to send out “stimulus” checks to consumers who we hope will shop for LCD TV’s (made in China) for sale at Circuit City (now bankrupt).

Let’s think big. A super-Acela truly offering high speed rail service. How about finally fixing our air traffic control system so a light rain doesn’t close LaGuardia. And what about those feeder barge test-projects designed to get container cargos off of our highways.

Let’s build roads and rails, airports and shipping terminals. Let’s make jobs and leave something our grandchildren can envy.

1 comment:

RDegray said...

I listened to you today on the John Dankowsky show on CPR and your comments were great.

I do find what seems to be a contradiction in this article, namely, you wrote: "Face it. We need to fix what we have before dreaming of a maglev running down the center of our freeways."

Later you wrote: "Let’s think big. A super-Acela truly offering high speed rail service."

We need to think and implement big.
Repaving the Merritt Parkway will not solve the congestion problem for example.

rdegray@mac.com