State’s New Road Plan Involves Fewer Roads
Today’s Joplin Globe (one of our favorite papers here at the Show-Me Institute) featured a story about the new MoDOT five-year plan, which involves much less money for new projects than in prior years. I have no issues with MoDOT’s plan. I am a transportation enthusiast, not a civil engineer, but from everything I can tell, MoDOT does an excellent job with our money. However, before I get to the meat of the matter, I do have a quibble with the way the agency expressed this funding decline in its press release:
Only one-third the size of the 2009 program, it barely has enough funds to take care of the existing system.
Is it possible that an extraordinary set of circumstances in 2009 — perhaps a massive stimulus proposal intended to get the economy moving — might be why the 2009 program was so large, and why future programs look small by comparison? Why, we had the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that year, of course. I realize that this is a minor quibble, but comparing government funding in other years to 2009 will always be unfair. It’s like talking about Major League Baseball piching stats from 1968, or hitting stats from 1930 — you have to give some allowance for context.
But onto the bigger question: How will these upcoming annual appropriations affect Missourians? I, for one, am underwhelmed by the risks. For starters, it is only logical that at some point in a state not experiencing much population growth, expansion of the transportation system will level off. Eventually, an adequate system has been built, and if the population is no longer growing, it does not need much expansion. However, I do agree with the central point of this statement by the MoDOT chairman:
“It’s not just jobs that are related to the construction of the highways. Economic development follows transportation.”
The key for me is that I’d like to see as many of those transportation improvements as possible be private, rather than public. (Note: This observation in itself does not entail a critique of MoDOT, which is also pursuing expanded opportunities for public-private partnerships and tolling, in some instances.)
I could (emphasis on the could, not would) support a gas tax increase if it were used to fund necessary transportation improvements and system upkeep that the upcoming levels might fail to meet. I see no way in which I’d support a general sales tax increase for something like our transportation system that can be paid for in a much more targeted and efficient manner — be that tolling, gax taxes, or property taxes for local roads.
Thanks to Combest for the link.