David Brooks: What is Up With Obama’s Infrastructure Plan?

David Brooks of the New York Times poses an interesting question: where is the creativity in Obama’s infrastructure plan?

As Brooks notes, “Barack Obama has said that he would start an infrastructure project that will dwarf Dwight Eisenhower’s highway program. If, indeed, we are going to have a once-in-a-half-century infrastructure investment, it would be great if the program would build on today’s emerging patterns. It would be great if Obama’s spending, instead of just dissolving into the maw of construction, would actually encourage the clustering and leave a legacy that would be visible and beloved 50 years from now.”

In any case, there will likely be big dollars for transportation in Obama’s economic stimulus package. Indeed, Congressman Jim Oberstar’s plan calls for a $45 billion infrastructure investment, which would include $18.25 billion for roads and bridges, $6 billion for transit, and $2 billion for intercity rail.

The devil lies in the details. How will this money be spent? Brooks is concerned there’s no evidence so far that the Obama infrastructure plan is attached to any larger social vision. He acknowledges that the job of a stimulus plan is to get money out the door quickly, sent toward projects that are already in the pipeline.

We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s history. We can either do transportation right, or as Brooks says, “[unless the stimulus package is] designed with care, its main effect will be to prop up the drying husks of the [economic] fall.”

Transit for Livable Communities is participating in the Transportation for America campaign to ensure that America’s transportation is built for 21st century needs. Learn more at www.t4america.org.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.