If you have "no place to go," come here!


Wouldn't it be great if we learned something from the bailout Clusterfuck? That if you throw money into a system without any oversight, you just make the system do what it already does, except more so? In the case of TARP, we got massive looting by Hank Paulson's golfing buddies; and in the case of the stimulus packag, we're going to get more roads, more cars, more suburban sprawl, and further away from sustainability. Bloomberg:

Dec. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Missouri’s plan to spend $750 million in federal money on highways and nothing on mass transit in St. Louis doesn’t square with President-elect Barack Obama’s vision for a revolutionary re-engineering of the nation’s infrastructure.

Utah would pour 87 percent of the funds it may receive in a new economic stimulus bill into new road capacity. Arizona would spend $869 million of its $1.2 billion wish list on highways.

While many states are keeping their project lists secret, plans that have surfaced show why environmentalists and some development experts say much of the stimulus spending may promote urban sprawl while scrimping on more green-friendly rail and mass transit.

“It’s a lot of more of the same,” said Robert Puentes, a metropolitan growth and development expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington who is tracking the legislation. “You build a lot of new highways, continue to decentralize” urban and suburban communities and “pull resources away from transit.”

His plans are colliding with deep fiscal shortfalls among states with a backlog of road-building needs and pressure from lawmakers to use his economic recovery package mainly for “ready to go” projects that will immediately bolster the economy.

The shovel that's ready should be the bullshit shovel. Because we'll need it.

For one thing, there are plenty of mass transit projects that are ready to go now:

Polly Trottenberg, director of Building America’s Future, a Washington-based group promoting innovation in infrastructure improvements, counters that “there are plenty of projects that can put Americans back to work immediately and also start the transformation that is needed.”

Her organization and other groups have pinpointed $16.5 billion in mass-transit projects on which work can start within a year, and in many cases within four months.

For another, there's a whole category of projects that don't seem to be on anybody's radar screen at all: Projects for education, childcare, teaching, training could also start right away -- and there's your real bridge to the future: The mind, not concrete and still. Of course, women are disproportionately represented in those fields, so perhaps that's the problem.

Anyhow, no oversight:

Members of Congress and some officials with the incoming administration are moving toward legislation that gives states funds through existing formulas that provide little oversight to ensure the spending fits into a broader plan to modernize the nation’s infrastructure grid and promote energy efficiency, according to several lobbyists and congressional aides.

“We like the environmentally friendly way of doing things but the charge we were given was to come up with something that can happen quickly,” said Jim Berard, a spokesman for House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar, a Minnesota Democrat.

Harry, Nancy, nice work.

Urban planners and mass transit advocates say that approach may undercut Obama’s goal of more innovation in upgrading the nation’s infrastructure.

In Europe and Southeast Asia, governments are investing tens of billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects that include systems designed for the rapid transport of merchandise. Proponents of a new approach to transportation in the U.S. are pushing for the stimulus package to fund similar projects.

Yes, I'm sure our international competitors will be happy to see us being stupid.

They also are backing a provision in the stimulus legislation that would require states to spend funds on maintenance before building new roads. And they also want to direct funds to metropolitan planning authorities and to create a national oversight group to help coordinate the spending.

This could be similar to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s creation of a national resources planning board during the New Deal that developed long-range plans for infrastructure spending, Todorovich said. It laid the groundwork for the interstate highway system 20 years later.

Change? Or more of the same? Could we have some leadership on this? Before all the money is pissed away?

No votes yet


bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on


Bobo being the world's most reliable reverse-indicator, we are thus assured that the Obama plan is correct and will be wildly successful.

Some of the money will go to short-term, shovel-ready projects that will include road repair and extension. That's because the economic stimulous benefit will come quickly, in weeks instead of months.

Some additional portion of the money will go to bridges, some to school buildings, some to dams and levees, to make repairs and improvements that have been vastly underfunded for 50 years. Those projects will be slower to start and last for decades.

Some will go to new projects, mass transit and the electrical grid, and will be tied to other new programs of non-fossil fuel energy development and land-use planning. These projects will take several years to get underway and last again for decades.

And some will get squandered on pork and waste and fraud.

It will be a mess in some ways, but that is the nature human beings. Mostly, what I hear from Obama and what is coming from the groups that are advising him on policy sounds pretty good. Unlike this piece from Bloomberg, with quotes from a dozen different POVs and no synthesis, the Obama advisors do have a long-term plan that does include mass transit and sustainable planning for new construction as well as existing infrastructure repair and improvement.

The biggest concern in this area for me is the alt-fuels programs, still too heavy on the idiocy started years ago with ethanol and the lies around "clean" coal. It may be that we should use our coal to transition away from foreign oil, as a stop-gap measure, but neither coal nor natural gas will provide sustainable long-term solutions. On the other hand, neither solar nor wind nor biofuel will answer our energy needs so to go Green the Left wll have to get over antipathy for nuclear power - there is no other solution short of reducing our energy use and that will not happen willingly.

There will be significant pushback from interests invested in the current systems, but that can be ameliorated by bringing them into partnership with the solutions. Stephen Chu has already started that process, and hopefully his position in Obama 's administration will give him the clout to get more of these kinds of joint private-public projects off the ground. There is a path forward that doesn't depend on sprawl and fossil fuels, and Chu sees that clearly. At a conference chaired by Harry Reid earlier this year on the future of energy, Chu flatly stated that "Coal is not a solution; coal is the problem." The team Obama has assembled is IMHO as good as can be had, and on balance I'm very pleased with how that effort is shaping up.

And for what it is worth, Harry and Nancy are listening to Stephen Chu very closely. He is a good person, he isn't afraid of or intimidated by or dependent on anyone, and I believe that he will do the right things to get the process moving in a sustainable direction.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Happy Holidays to you, too.

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

You're life will be oh so much more livable when you let our betters who know better than us do better things than we can conceive. And if they aren't addressing our concerns of today, they will surely do so tomorrow.

Incidentally, it goes beyond Obama now. It's the whole Democratic Party.

Damon's picture
Submitted by Damon on

You call his posts optimistic? They are ultra-cynical and pessimitic, to me. I also see very few of them being genuine, rather being a contrarian for its own sake.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

'Green' Jobs Compete for Stimulus Aid: Obama Weighs Them Vs. Traditional Projects

..."We've let our infrastructure crumble for a long, long time from water to roads to bridges. It makes sense to invest in them now," Biden said.

But environmentalists and their allies view old-fashioned highway construction as encouraging longer commutes and increasing the energy-consumption crisis of the past year. "They're going to put a bunch of money through a broken system to stimulate the economy. That doesn't make sense to me," said Colin Peppard, a transportation expert for Friends of the Earth.

Peppard's group recently began a "Road to Nowhere" campaign, saying that new roads would lead to "new pollution -- keep the economic stimulus clean."

Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has circulated a 41-page memo seeking $85 billion worth of projects over the next two years. The largest chunk of that money, more than $30.2 billion, would go toward highway funds, while $12 billion would go to local public transportation funds. An additional $14.3 billion would go toward "environmental infrastructure," with most going to a clean-water fund.

Smart-growth advocates are happy that the percentage of funds in Oberstar's proposal devoted to roads is not the 80-20 split in the current highway funding formula, but they still see a system tilting toward old-fashioned projects. "It's been a lot of business as usual," said David Goldberg, spokesman for Transportation for America.

Goldberg's group has studied infrastructure proposals from 15 states and found that 75 percent of their requests are for roadway construction, and of that, the overwhelming majority of money would fund new projects in outer suburbs that have been hard hit by the mortgage crisis. "We're building all this stuff for where the economy isn't anymore," he said. ...

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

i think only Holland is more densely populated in such a similarly small space.

And they have actual supertrains -- and keep on building more (even Europe's doing that nowadays)

i'm not arguing against public works in any way-- building new highways out to where Senators and Reps own land -- which happened in FL i believe -- is what this'll be unless they're watched like hawks.

I don't want public money going to private companies without accountability. I want actual WPA -- we're not gonna get those things at all.

this says --

... Seventy-five percent of the land is too steep for agriculture. Therefore, the physiologic population density [PhysDen] is approximately 5,800 people per square mile of arable land.

Japan is a crowded country, yet forests cover 65% of its area. In other words,
Japan's 127 million people are crowded onto a land area the size of the state of Indiana. ...

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

The first ever model of Japan's world-famous bullet train Sunday enjoyed its farewell run, its operator said, 44 years after it transformed overland travel.

The first bullet trains -- known as the Shinkansen in Japan -- were rolled out to the world's awe for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics as one of the symbolic events to mark the nation's recovery from the ashes of World War II. ...