Transpo’s Losses in First Round of Spending Cuts Look Worse Than They Are

The two houses of Congress were so much at odds over the Republicans’ proposed spending cuts that they needed two more weeks to bicker about it. So last week, they pushed off a little longer final passage of the budget for a fiscal year that started five months ago. But in order to even pass that measly two-week extension, Democrats needed to accede to $4 billion in cuts.

About a quarter of those cuts were to transportation. But it’s not as bad as it sounds.

The biggest chunk is $650 million of general fund spending for transportation. But remember, the baseline budget that this money is being cut from is the FY2010 budget. No allocation from the general fund was ever requested for 2011, so this isn’t a real cut since it wouldn’t have been in the 2011 budget in any case. As the Appropriations Committee puts it, “Removing these funds will have no impact on the authorized, mandatory side of the highway program and its limitation of obligations.”

The two-week cuts also targeted unspent earmarks from 2010, including $22 million for HUD Neighborhood Initiatives, $173 million for HUD Economic Development Initiative, $293 million for surface transportation “priorities” and $25 million for rail line relocation.

That all adds up to $1.16 billion in cuts to transportation and urban development. But really, it’s a lesson that when members of Congress advertise to their fiscally-conservative constituencies that they’re cutting money from the budget, sometimes the money they’re “cutting” was never really there in the first place.

2 thoughts on Transpo’s Losses in First Round of Spending Cuts Look Worse Than They Are

  1. It’s ironic they show an image of scissors. There’s an old saying, ”Politicians like to cut ribbons but they don’t like to sweep brooms”. They prefer spening money on new projects not maintainence.

    Every time they receive fresh infusions of money, they divert it to less essential projects. Such as extensive transit projects that take years to complete. The year 20xx is comfortably far enough away that elected officials whose terms are no longer than four to six years don’t bother worrying about it as they’re out of office before the initiative is finished. So if the project fails to meet expectations we can’t blame the ones out of office. And we’ve seen many transit lines fall into extensive disrepair or neglect due to poor ridership and lack of capital.

  2. It’s time for maybe a little private investors. I’ve heard of some of these plans. In France, a private company built a double decked under-ground highway beneath Paris. Turning a 45 minute commute into a 10 minute trip. In California a private company added 2 new toll lanes to highway 91. Drivers have the freedom to use them or not. If they do they don’t stop at toll collection booths which slows things down and adds to congestion. Tolls are collected using sensors, EZ pass style devices stuck to your windshield. Others will just snap a picture of your license plate for every time you use the lanes and send you a bill every month. And since uncongested roads actually move more vehicles per hour than congested roads, you just think the congested roads are fuller. And less congestion means less gas is wasted and money saved being out of traffic and costs of saved gas outweighs the cost of tolls. And if you are stuck in traffic on these lanes, you’re entitled to refunds. The fewer vehicles they can pass through, the less money they make. Even if the toll is 75 cents or a few bucks. Competing companies may offer lower prices on their roads even though the road is a little longer. These private companies footed the bill for nearly everything building the lanes, maintenance and infrastructure and security and safety, they have greater incentive to get you through traffic as quickly as possible, so the roads tend to be very smooth, very straight with a few curvatures and typically well looked after.

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