The destruction of our highway system

That’s right folks. To save a family of four $70 this summer, (according to HIllary) or $37 (according to most far more reputable sources) Hillary will cut the federal gas tax for three months.  In exchange for that fiasco, gas companies can push up prices, knowing that $4.00 is not even a psychological barrier anymore.

But here’s the real good news.  350,000 US citizens, (possibly far more – see below) many of you union workers, will be fired this summer. Anyone who lays tar, pours concrete, makes and ties rebar, fills pot holes, does welding to repair cracks in bridges, builds new roads, or fixes and expands existing ones, every single one of you will be fired this summer.

Under Hillary’s plan, the tax dollars that support your infrastructure investment will be gone. That means there will be no way to pay for the fixes that this nasty winter and spring have brought forth.

Wait! It gets even better! Please excuse the round-about fashion of getting to the point. This isn’t the first time a truly stupid policy decision was made in Washington. Hopefully we can learn and keep Hill out of it. Before it is too late.

Once upon a time, there used to be a thriving industry – extremely efficient, quiet, effective, and able to transport entire gaggles of people and tons of  goods across long distances with a single bound. Then one summer, maintenance and repair moneys dried up. No railroad or federal funds were used to maintain track, rebuild stations, invest in switching equipment, or improve crossings in metro areas. Then, to add insult in injury, between WWI and WWII, competition increased, including plane, auto, water.

http://www.jstor.org/…

Guess what happened. The rail industry in the US almost collapsed.

With passage of the Interstate Commerce Act in 1887, freight railroads became the first  U.S. industry subject to comprehensive federal economic regulation.  For the next 93 years, the  federal government, mainly through the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), controlled  wide areas of rail operations.  As railroads faced increasingly-intense competition from highways  and waterways, the government proved to be a deeply-flawed substitute for the free market.  By the 1970s, the rail industry was on the brink of ruin.  Bankruptcies were common, earnings were too low to maintain tracks and equipment in good condition, rates were rising, and service levels were plummeting.  Serious consideration was given to nationalizing the industry.

http://www.aar.org/…

For our failing  passenger service, the creation of Amtrak was a bandaid, not a solution. Unfortunately, Congress never actually granted the kind of maintenance investment that Amtrak (and every rational expert and economist) said that it needed to actually be a competitive, functioning passenger system. (Keep this in mind should Hillary’s plan pass) For every year that maintenance was put off, or ignored, the cost to repair that line or track increased by no less than a factor of three, with some estimates approaching 10-15x. A stitch in time really does save nine, when you deal with infrastructure.

A dollar invested in a timely basis in the late 1960s would easily saved 10 spent on an emergency basis later. Only recently has the rail industry invested the kinds of moneys necessary to maintain its infrastructure. By 2006, investment actually increased each year for an entire decade, until the rail recesssion of 2007 struck (as an aside, the rail industry has always been a secret, but accurate, barometer of the rest of the economy’s health)  Playing catch up, when you deal with the maintenance of infrastructure, is a lose-lose situation. As rail has showed us, you simply cannot catch up.

Apply that sorry history to the highway system, should Hillary’s plan be passed.

First, it is impossible to underestimate the importance of highways and roads to the US economy. While Class 1 train tracks are on the increase, the damage done in the 1950s-1970s was so bad, that even the billions spent today are insufficient to fix all the damage. Keep in mind the damage done to rail due to a lack of constant, reliable, rational investment and maintenance program. The national highway system is an integral, irreplaceable part of our economic system.

When transportation decision-makers at the federal, state, and local levels discuss possible investments in highway infrastructure and the impacts, they sometimes overlook one very important potential impact – the economic benefits to national productivity and employment.

“The signing of the National Highway System Designation Act of 1995 by the president on Nov. 28, 1995, meant an additional influx of $5.4 billion into the federal-aid highway program targeted to the National Highway System (NHS).
NHS is a connected network of almost 260,000 kilometers of roadways that serve major population centers, international border crossings, ports, airports, public transportation facilities, and other intermodal transportation facilities and major transportation destinations; meet national defense requirements; and serve interstate and interregional travel.

NHS represents just 4 percent of America’s 6.4 million kilometers of public roads, but NHS carries more than 40 percent of the nation’s highway traffic and 70 percent of the truck freight traffic. NHS provides the vital links to efficiently move people and goods to the desired destinations.”

http://www.tfhrc.gov/…

Ironic, isn’t it? Hillary seeks to destroy the very thing, a good thing, that her husband signed into law.

Here are some comparitive stats:


http://www.transportation1.org/…

“Highway Investment. In 2005, highway capital investment was $75 billion, $33 billion or 45 percent of the total in Federal assistance, and $42 billion from the state and local level. 
  

“Transit Investment. In 2004, transit capital investment was $13.2 billion, $5.2 billion or 40 percent of the total in Federal assistance, and $8 billion from the state and local level. 
  

“Construction Costs. Between 1993 and 2015 highway and transit construction costs will have increased 70 percent.”

Actually, the last statement was a rather rosy prediction. Real material costs have more than doubled since the Supremes put Bush into office. Add to that the growing demands in China, Iraq, and other global hotspots, the collapse of the dollar due to Bush monetary mismanagement, and the chances are that materials costs will rise even higher, for the foreseeable future.

According to the DOT and GAO, every billion dollars of highway funds translates into anywhere between 23,000 jobs to 48,000. A US highway institute prefers the larger number, but includes satellite industries such as materials handling and creation, transport of building and repair materials, and related industries.

As for those directly involved in federally funded construction and maintenance work, the GAO estimates that 311,000 work in this industry. The real numbers are worse. Do the math. From the above cited report, $33 billion or 45 percent of the total in Federal assistance,
Just taking the DOT’s conservative figures of 23,000 times 33 billion, 759,000 jobs will be impacted!.

That’s right. In order to pay for Hillary’s inane, irrational, pointless, self-destructive, and plain stupid pandering to Indiana voters, especially  the less educated blue collar ones, she will adversely impact 759,000 US jobs.   What a deal!

The rail industry already showed us what happens when you drop investment in maintenance and infrastructure. Let us give you a reminder of what that means in more real terms.

Perhaps some of you remember Minnesota, that lily white state that deplores people of color. (Wait, didn’t Obama win that state 66% to Hillary’s 32%? I guess Minnesota doesn’t matter anymore)  In case you forgot, 13 people died, in part because of a lack of maintenance:

“Since 1993, the bridge was inspected annually by Mn/DOT, although no inspection report was completed in 2007, due to the construction work. In the years prior to the collapse, several reports cited problems with the bridge structure. In 1990, the federal government gave the I-35W bridge a rating of “structurally deficient,” citing significant corrosion in its bearings. “Structurally deficient” is a classification term which does not in itself indicate a lack of safety. Approximately 75,000 other U.S. bridges had this classification in 2007. 
According to a 2001 study by the civil engineering department of the University of Minnesota, cracking had been previously discovered in the cross girders at the end of the approach spans.

“The main trusses connected to these cross girders and resistance to motion at the connection point bearings was leading to unanticipated out-of-plane distortion of the cross girders and subsequent stress cracking. The situation was addressed prior to the study by drilling the cracks to prevent further propagation and adding supports struts to the cross girder to prevent further distortion. The report also noted a concern about lack of redundancy in the main truss system, which meant the bridge had a greater risk of collapse in the event of any single structural failure. Although the report concluded that the bridge should not have any problems with fatigue cracking in the foreseeable future, the bridge instrumentation by strain gages and continuous structural health monitoring had been suggested.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/…

13 lives gone in one event. 759,000 jobs adversely affected. The safety and effectiveness of our entire highway, bridge and road system put needlessly at risk.

Thanks, but no thanks, hillary.

5 Responses to "The destruction of our highway system"

  1. yarply  May 4, 2008 at 6:02 pm

    Instead of taxing us, tax the oil companies. For every dollar per gallon they raise the price on gas, hit them with a one dollar per gallon tax.

  2. 33rdSt  May 5, 2008 at 4:05 am

    robert,
    you leave out one very important point in your otherwise impressive analysis. Dwight D. Eisnehower, one of the two most beloved president’s of the past century, established as a matter of public policy that highways were more strategcially important than railroads and pushed the country into a dependence on highways that created the current dependence on foreign oil and on the current highway system.

    And yarply, you want to double the taxes on my gasoline? Or are you naive enough to think the oil companies will NOT pass their dollar on to me?

  3. Sandra Price  May 5, 2008 at 9:04 am

    Hillary has no power to do what she wants. She can submit a bill to the congress and that is all there is. If she does this, we must write our Representatives not to allow it. We are talking about the next 3 months and I do believe Bush is President. Eventhough he suggested it we can stop it.

    This damn war for oil, killed 4 more of our soldiers yesterday.

    Nice Commentary Rob.

  4. snargle  May 5, 2008 at 10:33 am

    All this is a moot point to Hillary as long as it gets her the nomination. She will do whatever it takes, up to and including advocating the destruction of our highways, trashing of the economy, and delivering the future of the United States to the oil corporations, to get on the presidential ticket. If she’s elected, it’s pretty easy to see how she’s going to govern. Better start tilling that backyard garden and laying in a supply of firewood…we’re going to be a third-world country before you know it.

  5. knockknock  May 6, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    She has no authority to do anything with the gas tax or anything else. She’s merely trying to win the Democratic nomination by doing and saying anything she thinks will get a vote. She’s ruthless, relentless and repugnant.

    Every time she or her husband open their mouths, they should pay a gas tax because they’re a pair of gasbags themselves.

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