On April 26, the organization representing state transportation officials released the first in a series of reports calling for increasing the nation's capacity in transit, rail and particularly highways. Two days later, a leading consumer watchdog group unveiled a report urging federal and state governments to strongly emphasize preserving the current interstate highway and bridge system rather than expanding it.
"Unlocking Gridlock," released by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, focuses on relieving urban congestion. While AASHTO advocates maintaining and improving the performance of the current transportation system, shifting car trips to other modes and shifting freight from trucks to rail, it says that adding new highways "will be a principal part of what is needed" to relieve congestion and foster economic growth.
When it comes to highways, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group reaches a different conclusion in its report "Road Work Ahead: Holding Government Accountable for Fixing America's Crumbling Roads and Bridges." U.S. PIRG believes "we must adopt strong 'fix it first' rules that give priority to maintenance of our existing roads and bridges, set national goals for the condition of our transportation system, and hold state governments accountable for achieving results."
How would you set priorities for highway spending? What criteria would you use? How can federal policy better encourage states to keep existing roads and bridges in good repair? How can it give them better tools to address their urban mobility and congestion problems?