Crumbling trust

Adjusting the case for more infrastructure investment

Blog Entry October 22, 2012
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“Concern about deteriorating infrastructure has failed to resonate with the electorate during the election campaign,” said Ken Orski in his latest newsletter (Innovation NewsBriefs, Oct. 19, 2012). Orski argues that the failure of the Congress and the general public to respond to warnings of crumbling transportation infrastructure is not a case of indifference or short-sightedness. “They simply are not convinced by the ‘sky is falling’ rhetoric employed by the alarmists,” he said.


For those of us who see the reports of structurally deficient bridges, the need for more funding for infrastructure seems obvious. Not to mention the hours wasted and fuel wasted and money wasted in congested traffic.


Don’t we all have the experience of driving on deteriorated pavement on a regular basis? I can remember seeing highway overpass structures in and around Chicago where the concrete has crumbled so badly the rusting rebar is showing.


What the general public sees is “highways and transit networks that are well maintained and functioning smoothly and reliably in most of the places most of the time,” Orski writes.


And yet I regularly hear about municipalities that increase the local sales tax by half a percent or so to pay for a new transit project.


I think Orski hits closer to the heart of the matter when he says the public doesn’t trust the federal government to spend tax dollars wisely. Orski quotes Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who publishes an annual ‘Wastebook’ report on government spending, “Billions of dollars intended for transportation are wasted on questionable projects that do little to fix congestion or other transportation problems.”


My guess is that people think the gas tax is wasted by the federal government, whereas the local sales tax is more likely to benefit those who pay it.


The transportation industry may have to adjust its advocacy to address the real concerns of the public.

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