Enough money for roads and bridges?

Brett Lieberman in the Patriot News examines PA’s infrastructure needs. But unlike most coverage, Lieberman deserves credit for looking at how money is being spent, before conceding we need more spending. And he’s not just talking about Governor Rendell’s use of $400 million in road and bridge money for mass transit, but about the earmarks and political decision making process.

Note that this is not just a federal problem, but also a state problem (though they don’t “earmark” in quite the same way). We pointed this in testimony to the Transportation Funding and Reform Commission last year, though Act 44 rejects any such need for reform:

Over $706 million—nearly half of the federal highway dollars for Pennsylvania—was earmarked for pork-barrel projects. These spending priorities were not set from an evaluation of needs from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, but by members of Congress. These projects include: $2.4 million for a pedestrian overpass at Villanova, $8 million for pedestrian and bike trails along the North Delaware Riverfront, $1 million for a “Child Passenger Safety” program at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and over $7.1 million for projects at the Philadelphia Zoo.

My “favorite” pork-barrel project is the State Street Promenade in front of our offices in Harrisburg, where federal and state transportation funding has been used not to repair a dilapidated street, but to tear all up the trees and replace the sidewalks with thousands of bricks. Why? To improve the view from the state Capitol building down to the Susquehanna River, at taxpayer expense. If we are in such a funding crisis, with our major highways and bridges in disrepair, why are we spending hundred of millions of dollars on pork like this? We need to keep political interests away from determining our priority projects and focus on the true needs for transportation funding in Pennsylvania.