Obama urges Congress to move quickly on transportation bill

Speaking from the White House Rose Garden today, President Barack Obama urged Congress to move quickly to pass legislation to fund transportation projects.

“Now is the time for Congress to extend the transportation bill, keep our workers on the job,” he said. “Now is the time to put our country before party and give certainty to the people who are trying to get by. There’s work to done. There are workers ready to do it. That’s why I expect Congress to act immediately.”

Smart Growth America President Geoff Anderson attended President Obama’s speech today and was encouraged by his push to fund transportation projects now.

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Smart Growth America applauds Senator Cardin for introducing bill to improve highway maintenance and repair

U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) yesterday introduced legislation to prioritize spending on highway repair and preservation for the benefit of America’s drivers, state budgets and the federal funds that support the country’s major roads. The “Preservation and Renewal of Federal-Aid Highways Act” will ensure adequate and consistent investments in the country’s existing transportation infrastructure, a strategy in line with Smart Growth America and Taxpayers for Common Sense’s recent report Repair Priorities: Transportation spending strategies to save taxpayer dollars and improve roads.

Geoff Anderson, President and CEO of Smart Growth America and co-chair of the Transportation for America campaign, issued the following statement:

“With this legislation Senator Cardin has proposed an approach to highway spending that is fiscally responsible for both states and the federal government, and Smart Growth America applauds him for taking action in the face of the significant financial threat posed by decades of neglected road repair.

“Roads in many states are falling in to disrepair and these declining conditions cost taxpayers billions of dollars in preventable expenses. Even worse, many states continue to expand their road networks at the cost of regular repair, and with each dollar spent on expansion states add to a road system they are already failing to maintain.

“Senator Cardin’s proposal incorporates many of Smart Growth America’s recent recommendations, including establishing national standards for state-of-good-repair, encouraging states to invest proportionately more of their transportation dollars in repair, rather than expansion, and taking proactive steps to addressing the country’s backlog of road repair needs. As the Senator said in his statement about the proposed bill, investing in repair makes good fiscal sense, good safety sense, and good business sense for our country and we look forward to supporting this bill as it moves through Congress.”

See current state condition standards along with spending priorities and road conditions at www.smartgrowthamerica.org/repair-priorities.

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The problem with potholes: neglected road repair poses huge liabilities for many states

Crossposted from the Huffington Post

For decades, states have invested disproportionately in road expansion and left regular repair and preservation underfunded. As a result of these spending decisions, road conditions in many states are getting worse and threaten taxpayers with billions of dollars in preventable expenses.

Between 2004 and 2008, states collectively spent $37.9 billion on road repair and expansion projects. The majority of these funds — 57% — went to just 1.3% of roads during this time. The remaining 99% of states’ road networks received only 43% of funding. Not surprisingly, without adequate funding for repair many roads across the country fell out of good condition during this time.

Investing in expansion at the cost of repair doesn’t just mean a rougher ride on some roads: it’s a transportation investment strategy that poses huge financial liabilities for states. Putting off repairs today means spending much more on those repairs in the future, as repair costs rise exponentially as road conditions decline. According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, repairing a road that has fallen into poor condition can cost up to 14 times as much as preserving a road in good condition to begin with. Compounding these costs is the fact that with every dollar spent on road expansion, states add to a system they are already failing to adequately maintain.

According to a new report by Smart Growth America and Taxpayers for Common Sense, states would collectively need to spend $43 billion every year for 20 years to bring the country’s roads currently in poor condition up to good condition and then keep them that way. To put this figure in perspective, $43 billion is more than what states are currently spending on all repair, preservation, and new capacity combined. The fact that states’ outstanding repair need is so great makes clear that spending priorities have drifted too far from regular repair and, in so doing, have created a deficit that will take decades to reverse.

Preserving a road in good condition through periodic repair is significantly cheaper than allowing it to degrade and then rebuilding it. By prioritizing maintaining roads in good condition, states can avoid the substantially higher cost of bringing crumbling roads back to a state of good repair down the line.

More information about these issues, and recommendations for how state and federal leaders can take action, is available in Repair Priorities: Transportation spending strategies to save taxpayer dollars and improve roads.

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Wasteful Development Subsidies Among Cuts Proposed by Debt Commission

This post was originally published on the Huffington Post.

In its report yesterday, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform encouraged Congress to cut from the federal budget “wasteful spending, including subsidies that are poorly targeted or create perverse incentives…” People who care about making great neighborhoods, take notice. Unbeknownst to most, the federal government plays a massive role in the real estate market by subsidizing and enabling all kinds of development in our communities. With ballooning deficits, now seems like a good time to revisit these subsidies and make sure they are achieving a legitimate public purpose -and not, in the commission’s words, “creating perverse incentives.”

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