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2009 Transportation Bill

Stim Cash Gone Bad: Feds Fund Houston’s Highway to Nowhere

3:01 PM EDT on May 8, 2009

holzer.jpgRobin Holzer. Photo: New York Times.

Reuters just wrapped up a two-day "Infrastructure Summit" and published a great collection of stories about the state of transportation policy in the U.S. I especially like this piece, featuring Robin Holzer of the Houston-based Citizens' Transportation Coalition, who does a great job illustrating some of the major deficiencies that the federal stimulus bill failed to address:

Under the current system that U.S. President Barack Obamahas maintained, at least for now, the U.S. government will pay as muchas 80 percent of the multibillion dollar cost of a proposed 180-milering road around Houston -- its fourth such loop -- even though itserves a thinly populated rural area.

In contrast, an expansion of the city's light-rail system is onlyeligible for getting 50 percent of the cost paid by the federalgovernment, she said.

Yet more than 147,000 people live within a half-mile of the ten stations on the light rail system, Holzer said.

To demonstrate the low demand for the new ring road, Holzerdisplayed a picture of its empty lanes that she said she took at 5 p.m.one weekday -- a typical rush hour in urban areas.

"It's a boondoggle highway in the middle of nowhere," she said. "We need to invest our money where the people are."

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