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Interview: Senator Cardin, Maryland, speaks on transportation (2009)

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This is a little fresh air for an old post that was collecting cobwebs as a draftee:

During this year’s Planner’s Day on Capitol Hill, I got an opportunity to interview Senator Cardin on changing federal policies that affect planning. This is an excerpt from our interview. The full interview can be found at the Division’s website.

Harsh – What are some of your main expectations from the next federal surface transportation bill?

Senator – We face three fundamental challenges with the new transportation bill –

With bridges failing, congested roadways, and transit systems strained to the limit, we need to make a major new investment in the nation’s transportation infrastructure. According to the US DOT, the average annual cost to maintain both highways and bridges at their current level for the next 20 years could reach $78.8 billion, while it would take approximately $131.7 billion per year to improve the condition of both highways and bridges Those figures don’t include the billions more needed for our transit systems and their needed expansions. We must act to make a major new investment in a system that is under extreme stress.

Our transportation policy needs to be reoriented to the nation’s needs in the new century. We need to better integrate our various modes of transportation for handling the nation’s commercial goods. That includes freight rail, harbors, and highway trucking routes, including their interconnection to air freight facilities. Our current system for moving people to and from their work, schools, and recreation also will need to be fundamentally rethought. That will mean a much greater focus on mass transit, alternative modes of transportation, smart growth, reduction in the number of vehicle miles traveled as a policy goal, and so much more. We need a transportation policy that supports our goal of reducing our dependence on foreign oil and reduces the generation of greenhouse gases. The new surface transportation law will not accomplish all of these changes overnight, but the new bill should put us on a fundamentally different path than we have taken in the past.

We will need to explore new ways to fund our national transportation programs. Our current reliance on a static “gas tax” is already coming up short: $8 billion in the current fiscal year. If we are successful in moving more commuters out of their cars and into buses and subways, we will see those gas tax revenues decline, not increase. If we are successful in encouraging people to live where they work and to telecommute, gas tax receipts will fall even further.

Harsh – Given the bridge tragedy in Minneapolis last year and the subsequent findings of the National Transportation Safety Board, do you support in principle the National Plan for Infrastructure Investment, and also as a way to stimulate our economy in a time of financial uncertainty?

Senator – The collapse of the I-35 Bridge was a tragedy for Minnesota and for the nation. The bridge failure resulted in 13 deaths. The accident has already spurred the nation into action.

There are approximately 600,000 bridges on highways throughout the United States. About 51 percent of bridges are state owned, 47 percent are locally owned, and less than two percent are owned by the Federal government or private entities. National surveys indicate that nearly one-quarter of all these bridges are structurally deficient.

In addition to the funds provided directly for the repair of the I-35 Bridge, the Congress provided $1 billion in special funding to address our structurally deficient bridges. Of the 2,584 bridges along the Maryland State highway system, 411 (16 percent) are classified as functionally obsolete.

The American Society of Civil Engineers, the Nation, and others are calling for major infrastructure investments. I support a sustained effort to rebuild our national infrastructure. Doing so will provide an immediate stimulus to our economy and give us the network we need to restore the health of our commercial sector.

PS: Thanks to Mike Burke for arranging this!

Related:
* Senator Benjamin Cardin (Wikipedia)
* US Department of Transportation
* US National Transportation Safety Board
* Planning & Technology Today (2009)
* US GPO
* US Green Building Council
* Data 360

Written by Harsh

February 18th, 2011 at 6:05 pm