Just Words, Mr. President?

Barack Obama is justly renowned for his speaking style; he chooses his words with professorial precision. But on today’s featured Streetsblog Network post, the NRDC‘s Deron Lovaas, writing at The Infrastructurist, points out that the president used the "H" word — that would be "highways" — inaccurately during a recent visit to the USDOT:

2679715060_146174080d.jpgPhoto by robotbrainz via Flickr.

[Obama] offered some inspiring words about the infrastructure investments in the recovery bill that he just signed into law. Unfortunately, he erred in terming the largest single category of funding in those provisions — $27.5 billion of Surface Transportation Program (STP) monies — "highway" spending… This is not just highway money and we shouldn’t refer to it as such. Congress wisely used STP as the vehicle for this investment, knowing that this is a highly flexible way to funnel money into infrastructure. Why? Because there are fifteen eligible uses for the funding.

Those uses, as Lovaas notes, include bike and pedestrian infrastructure, as well as environmental clean-up projects.

Positive USDOT news from the network: the Bicycle Coalition of Philadelphia passes along word of the appointment of Roy Kienitz as the department’s undersecretary for policy. Kienitz is deputy chief of staff to PA governor (and progressive transportation booster) Ed Rendell, and the former director of the Surface Transportation Policy Project.

Plus, Ryan Avent at The Bellows turns an economist’s eye on the nation’s declining vehicle miles traveled, and explores the idea of a traffic congestion "tipping point," courtesy of a post at CEOs for Cities. And EcoVelo thinks it’s some kind of a sign that Wal-mart is marketing a $132 bike as a "commuter" model.

  • anonymous

    Shh, don’t tell anybody that the “highway” money is actually for hippie liberal bike trails! ;-p

  • Let me put on my linguist hat and point out that “highway” means lots of different things to different people. Two examples:

    In some circles “highway” means pretty much any road that’s not a city or town street. A “highway” in that sense can refer to a narrow two-lane country road.

    In other circles, “highway” is restricted to limited-access, multi-lane roads – essentially expressways and parkways.

    Of course, there are plenty who are ready to exploit those ambiguities. Some for good, some for evil.

  • Xue

    and in some cases “highway” refers to ANY street that is traversed by vehicles.

  • MP

    Was it just a coincidence that a picture from I-81 in Harrisburg, PA was used in the same article discussing Mr. Kienitz’s promotion? I travel this route often from Philadelphia to Penn State University. (Which, by the way, has its own fights going on now over “surface transportation”, but that’s another story.)

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