August 9, 2005: Headlines: Figures: COS - Somalia: Politics: Congress: USA Today: Tom Petri writes "It's not just about highways"

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Tom Petri writes "It's not just about highways"

Tom Petri writes It's not just about highways

"The highway bill is about much more than highway projects. A more accurate term is transportation bill, since it includes money for public transit and seeks to be "intermodal," encouraging efficient use of cars, buses, trains, airplanes, bicycles, walking and more."

Tom Petri writes "It's not just about highways"

It's not just about highways
By Tom Petri
America's economy and standard of living depend on efficient transportation. In 2003, the cost of traffic congestion nationwide was over $68 billion, resulting from 3.7 billion hours of extra travel time and 2.3 billion gallons of fuel wasted while sitting in traffic. The average trip takes 32% more time in rush hour than in non-rush hour.

Accordingly, the recently approved highway bill is an economic necessity for our nation and communities: $286 billion over six years is a significant investment, but it is considerably less than the $375 billion the Transportation Department identified as needed to improve safety and quality of life.

The highway bill is about much more than highway projects. A more accurate term is transportation bill, since it includes money for public transit and seeks to be "intermodal," encouraging efficient use of cars, buses, trains, airplanes, bicycles, walking and more.

There has been some criticism of the so-called pork barrel projects in the bill. While I have no interest in defending every one of these projects, the vast majority are good and sound. Members of Congress generally understand local priorities, and a project can well be legitimate even if it is promoted by a politician rather than by somebody in the state or federal transportation bureaucracies.

Separate "transportation enhancements" — trails, landscaping, sign mitigation, restoration of historic train stations and support for transportation museums — have value in their own right even if they do not involve the laying of road surfaces. These smaller projects are very popular and can be economically valuable to communities. And enhancement spending makes up less than 2% of our vital, necessary and far overdue bill.

Often overlooked are the important policy initiatives included in the new law. We are acting to encourage greater seat-belt use, decrease drunken driving, improve truck safety, and provide greater enforcement tools to go after unscrupulous household-goods movers. We can justly be proud of these provisions, even though they don't provide for new roads or bridges.

Rep. Tom Petri, R-Wis., is chairman of the House subcommittee on highways and transit. (House Transportation Committee Chairman Don Young, R-Alaska, declined an invitation to provide the opposing view.)

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Story Source: USA Today

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Figures; COS - Somalia; Politics; Congress


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