I’m pretty sure we’ve seen this story before, but here it is again anyway.
According to a study commissioned by the Texas Transportation Commission, during the next 20 years, more than $300 billion in 2009 dollars needs to be invested in Texas roads and freeways just to keep commute times from worsening.
Adjust that figure for expected inflation and the cost balloons to $488 billion. The gasoline tax, which provides most of the funding for road construction and maintenance, is only expected to provide $160 billion in revenue during the same period.
California, long maligned as the golden state of governmental malaise, has embarked on a different path. In 2008, California voters approved $10 billion in bonds as a down payment on a $40 billion high-speed rail system that will link San Diego to Los Angeles and Los Angeles to San Francisco and Sacramento via the Central Valley.
Regional transportation authorities have committed about $20 billion to dramatically expand mass transit systems in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles, as well as an additional $27 billion to pay for operating the transit systems and improving road maintenance.
All told, the California’s state government and major urban areas will spend more than $80 billion in the next 20 years to transform and expand its transportation infrastructure in a bid to handle the new demand.
I’m pretty sure the TTC study cited in this story is one that was heavily criticized for overstating the funding gap by counting every TxDOT wish list project as a need, but I’m not having any luck searching through the archives right now. Regardless, everyone agrees that there is a gap, that the gas tax is a woefully inadequate revenue source right now, and that Texas would have gotten a lot more federal stimulus dollars for high speed rail if it had had anything resembling a plan for rail. None of this is expected to change any time soon.
And we may have the chance to miss out on a lot more high speed rail funding in the future.
President Barack Obama is calling for a six-year, $53 billion spending plan for high-speed rail, as he seeks to use infrastructure spending to jumpstart job creation.
An initial $8 billion in spending will be part of the budget plan Obama is set to release Monday. If Congress approves the plan, the money would go toward developing or improving trains that travel up to 250 miles per hour, and connecting existing rail lines to new projects. The White House wouldn’t say where the money for the rest of the program would come from, though it’s likely Obama would seek funding in future budgets or transportation bills.
Obama’s call for increased spending on high-speed rail projects is nothing new. He’s long seen the sector as an area of opportunity for creating jobs and improving the nation’s transportation system. His administration awarded $10 billion in federal grants for high-speed rail projects last year, including $2.3 billion for California to begin work on an 800-mile-long, high-speed rail line tying Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay area to Los Angeles and San Diego; and $1.25 billion to Florida to build a rail line connecting Tampa on the West Coast with Orlando in the middle of the state, eventually going south to Miami.
Won’t it be fun watching all that money go to other states? Assuming Republicans in Congress don’t succeed in wiping it all out firrst, of course.