The Highs and Lows of Hillary’s Bland Infrastructure Plan

We’re getting some insight into what White House transportation policy would look like in a Hillary Clinton administration, following the Democratic frontrunner’s release of a 5-year, $275 billion infrastructure plan yesterday. It’s not exactly a visionary plan, but despite its blandness it’s still likely to be DOA if Republicans retain control of Congress as expected.

Photo: Wikipedia
Photo: Wikipedia

Clinton’s “briefing” calls for $275 billion in infrastructure spending over five years, on top of the $250 billion transportation bill being finalized right now in Washington. Echoing the Obama administration she says the proposal will be paid for by the vague notion of “business tax reform” — not a gas tax increase or a fee on driving mileage.

The Clinton spending package is something of a grab bag of ideas for roads, transit, aviation, water, and internet infrastructure.

On the one hand, Clinton gestures toward reforming the way federal infrastructure dollars are spent, emphasizing “merit-based” project selection. This suggests the typical state DOT highway boondoggle would face greater scrutiny. She also recognizes the need to get more bang for the infrastructure buck, signals support for walking and biking infrastructure, and promises to target spending to address environmental degradation and social inequality. She devotes a paragraph to the need for more investment in transit, which she says is particularly important for low-income communities and communities of color.

Those are the good parts, sounding policy themes carried over from the Obama administration, whose TIGER program remains a rare example of what “merit-based” federal funding would look like.

On the other hand, the Clinton campaign repeats the Texas Transportation Institute’s talking point about how Americans waste 42 hours in traffic annually — a dubious claim used to beat the drum for more highway expansions. Clinton’s proposal does not contain a reference to “fix it first” policy — the idea that keeping existing roads in good shape should take precedence over building new ones. In fact, she wants to “fix and expand” roads and bridges, which sounds like business as usual — squandering billions on highway projects the nation doesn’t need.

There may be something for everyone in this plan, but there’s no consistent vision for a safe, equitable, sustainable transportation system.

  • Joe Enoch

    It’s about as visionary as all her ideas — she’s the literal embodiment of “politics as usual.” She’s cut from the same clothe as Cuomo: a politician who values her political viability above all else.

  • AlexWithAK

    And yet, politics as usual is much, much better than what we’d get under anyone running on the GOP ticket. Republican control of both congress and the presidency would be a disaster for any kind of forward thinking transportation policy. At least with Clinton we’d be standing still rather than sprinting backwards. Sigh.

  • Charlie

    60 Minutes did a piece in 2014 (“Falling Apart: America’s Neglected Infrastructure”) on the dangerously dilapidated state of the US’s roads and bridges. Our existing infrastructure needs to be better maintained.

    While we should be placing emphasis on forms of transportation other than the personal automobile, that is not a change that can happen overnight, nor is the solution as one dimensional as simply adding bike lanes or metro stops.

  • Alex Brideau III

    Ahh, the sad but true “lesser of two evils” conundrum. As a member of a third party in a safely blue state, it’s not something I really need to worry about heading into next year’s election (whoever wins the Dem primary will win CA’s electoral votes), but I can see how this issue could keep swing state residents up at night. :-S

  • Brandon

    Vote for Bernie in the primary.

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