Report says “well-targeted” investments will improve accessibility, accelerate the nation’s economic recovery, and create short- and long-term jobs
Jan. 21, 2011
Washington, D.C. – A new report released today, authored by two members of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s (BPC) National Transportation Policy Project, called on the Administration and Congress to change their approach to transportation policy saying that “the nation can no longer afford to support poorly targeted investments when the needs are so great and public resources are so constrained.” The report authors, Douglas Holtz-Eakin and Martin Wachs, spoke at a press conference to release the report in Washington, D.C.
“The future of transportation policy is central to economic policy. Despite what has long been argued, investments in transportation infrastructure are not guaranteed to create jobs and simultaneously grow the economy. We must ruthlessly focus on economic growth, immediately and in the future,” said Dr. Holtz-Eakin. “The need for investment is clear: our roads are deteriorating and our transportation systems are not equipped to handle increasing capacity. Still, we cannot devote additional dollars, much less borrowed dollars, to transportation programs that provide an uncertain number of jobs and no lasting economic benefit.”
The report, Strengthening Connections Between Transportation Investments and Economic Growth, outlines three specific policy changes the Administration and Congress can make to ensure that scarce public dollars are spent wisely and, at the same time, create employment opportunities in the short-term and contribute to the nation’s economic recovery in the long-term.
First, the report recommends that no new funds be allocated to existing transportation programs if they provide questionable job-creation, unclear long-term benefits or if the programs are solely an effort to increase short-term employment. Second, investments should be directed to programs that are both “shovel-ready” and provide long-term benefits. These investments can help ease unemployment while also building the nation’s economic future. Finally, federal transportation investments should not be constrained by the silos and restrictions that dominate the federal government’s existing surface transportation program. “Instead of focusing on how the money is spent – that is, on whether funds go to operations versus capital or to highway versus transit – the focus must shift to the outcomes being achieved with a particular expenditure,” said the report. “If the most pressing outcomes at this point in time relate to job creation and long-term economic recovery, both of those outcomes should drive decisions about how to allocate federal resources and measure progress.”
“In addition to addressing long-term transportation-related objectives including safety, energy independence, and environmental sustainability, Congress should consider investments that result in higher productivity,” said Dr. Wachs. “These investments will improve economic well-being by increasing connectivity and accessibility to jobs while reducing congestion. Ideally, there is an approach to transportation investment that advances both goals - enduring productivity gains and immediate job creation. To do this, there must be flexibility within the system to pursue the highest returns on spending.”
The BPC’s National Transportation Policy Project is a group dedicated to reforming federal surface transportation policy in a way that ensures federal investments are held accountable for demonstrating results toward the achievement of national goals. Its members include former Republican and Democratic members of Congress, local-elected officials, business and civic leaders, and transportation stakeholders and experts. The project released its blueprint for surface transportation reform, Performance Driven: A New Vision for U.S. Transportation Policy, in June 2009.
“We have repeatedly argued that not all transportation investments are equally effective, and that future transportation spending must be driven by considerations of economic merit and guided by clearly articulated federal goals, including economic growth, metropolitan accessibility, environmental protection and energy security, and safety,” said JayEtta Hecker, Director of Transportation Advocacy at the BPC. “The report released today emphasizes the need for long-term returns rather than just short-term gains.”
Read the full report here.
National Transportation Policy Project