Passengers board an Amtrak train inside New York’s Penn Station in 2017. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters) It would massively increase public spending, prod us unwillingly onto public transit, and make our goods and fuel more expensive to please labor unions.
The House of Representatives will soon vote on the “Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America) Act” — a piece of legislation that would spend half a trillion dollars over five years on surface transportation. Despite the proclamation in its title, the bill is a bad investment for America. In addition to massively increasing public spending, it would also disproportionately privilege little-used transit programs compared with roads that people do use and hurt America’s successful freight rail industry. While surface-transportation funding needs to be renewed, the INVEST in America Act is not the proper way to do it.
As a general matter, the bill does wisely prioritize maintenance of existing roads and bridges — something that Congress has given lip service to over the years but has never really tackled. The vast majority of miles traveled by Americans is by road, and those roads need to be up to speed to allow their most efficient use. This is the one piece of the president’s infrastructure plan that has widespread bipartisan support.
Scrutinize this a bit more closely, however, and that positive goal begins to be railroaded by massive and poorly targeted spending for spending’s sake. The bill increases highway spending from about $250 billion to well over $300 billion over five years, according to the Congressional Research Service. Part of the reason it does so is because it reintroduces earmarks — otherwise known as “pork” — into the process. Indeed, Section 107 of the bill lists nearly 1,500 projects designated by House lawmakers for funding. (The Senate has yet to get in on the act.) Building new road projects because they are actually needed — rather than pleasing politicians — is apparently not the purpose of this legislation.
Beyond that, the bill goes into overdrive by adding large sums
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