From Denver: Dems Discuss Funding Woes; Biden Says “Amtrak”

bidenAP.jpgLast night saw what might one day qualify as an historic moment in transportation circles, as vice presidential candidate Joe Biden used the "A"-word during his speech to the Democratic National Convention in Denver. From a transcript of Biden’s address, via CNN:

You know, John McCain is my friend. And I know you hear that phrase
used all the time in politics. I mean it. John McCain is my friend.

We’ve traveled the world together. It’s a friendship that goes beyond
politics. And the personal courage and heroism demonstrated by John
still amazes me.

But I profoundly disagree with the direction
John wants to take this country, from Afghanistan to Iraq, from Amtrak
to veterans.

Meanwhile, earlier in the week, a panel of Democratic pols and economists seemed to agree that new investment in American infrastructure — including freight and commuter rail — is sorely needed, but came up short on the subject of funding. Roll Call reports:

They all
expressed the need for a private-public partnership, but the question
of where to raise federal funding caused anxiety among the elected
officials.

One
key issue was that the current system for infrastructure funding,
implemented in the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, relies on gas taxes
for revenue. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) called any attempt by Congress
to raise the gas tax “dead on arrival.”

But
Gov. Ed Rendell (D-Pa.) said that with or without the gas tax something
had to be done to bridge the funding gap, noting that the $1.6 trillion
cited by the ASCE report would only cover maintenance, not new
projects.

“When
I became governor I had to raise $2.4 billion in taxes,” Rendell said.
“When re-election came around — people aren’t stupid — one incumbent
lost and she voted against the tax increase.

“This is the time we have to challenge the American people. Folks, you get what you pay for.”

Photo: Associated Press via CNN 

  • vnm

    The gas tax was conceived of as a proxy for a user fee that would charge those who used the roads and highways based on how much they used them. With technology advances and with the introduction of hybrid cars, the gas tax as originally conceived probably makes less and less sense.

    If the goal is to compensate the government for wear-and-tear on roads, it would be better to actaully tax that driving, per mile, based on satelite transponder technology or some such. If the goal is to discourage people from emitting greenhouse gases, better to raise the gas tax.

  • Wait, they want to spend more on infrastructure but don’t have the wherewithal to actually raise funding for it? Stunning.

  • Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) called any attempt by Congress to raise the gas tax “dead on arrival.”

    I know there are a lot of Streetsblog readers who live in DeLauro’s district and who might be frustrated with her simplistic approach. They might want to contact her and let her know.

  • Boris

    I don’t get it. Bush was able to raise hundreds of billions of dollars for the Iraq war without asking anyone, and the question of federal funding for transportation “caused anxiety”? Just have our soldiers build bridges, rail lines, and roads, using Pentagon money, just like they do in Iraq. Pass a transit appropriations bill instead of a war appropriations bill. Isn’t it really obvious?

  • You get what you pay for is absolutely right. Amtrak has been under-funded by a mile since its inception. If people really are moving to urban areas at a higher and higher rate, and the population is really increasing at a higher and higher rate… well, it makes more sense when planning cities to plan for mass transit. It equals more people on dedicated lines getting deposited to the downtown area faster. If we don’t fix it now, it is going to be one of those things that our descendants will look back on us and wonder what the hell we were thinking. Like our national debt.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Didn’t Rose Ds district used to benefit form tolls on the CT turnpike? Didn’t they give up on that about the same time they lowered their fuel taxes? Hasn’t Rose been following this strategy for a long time? And if CT won’t tax fuel why should the Feds? How will this ever play out in the favor of the Northeast come reauthorization next summer?

  • What state is our country in when “Politician Says ‘Amtrak'” is the headline?

    That said, when the “A-word” (tee hee) came out last night, it immediately suprised me.

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