In response to recent commentary by Mark Harmsworth regarding the much-needed U.S. 2 trestle replacement (“Fed up with U.S. trestle? Wait ‘til it’s tolled”):
As long as “economic growth” equals “sprawl,” the only limit to congestion is congestion itself. If we build more lanes, there will be more roadway users, driving today’s congestion levels onto ever larger roads. Unfortunately, we lack a funding mechanism to ensure that those who choose to live great distances from their jobs pay the true cost of infrastructure required to support their daily commutes. Until that disparity is resolved, we will continue to face growing budget gaps; infrastructure costs will continue to outrun finances.
I appreciate the fact that we have a vast road network, a ferry system and transit agencies. However, in order for those systems to maintain viability, they need to be supported to a greater degree by their direct beneficiaries.
It’s a foregone conclusion that federal assistance will be required to build a new trestle, and a transportation benefit district should have been created many years ago.
Harmsworth’s third suggestion, that we could use public/private partnerships, was interesting in that he failed to explain how the private sector would recover its costs. Typically, I believe this is done through the collection of tolls, or by using future tax revenues to pay off debt.
In either case, there’s no free lunch; we can either charge those who use the road or kick the can down the road. Maybe our kids will have finished paying this debt before the next new thing is needed, but probably not. Kicking the can is why we’re in this mess in the first place.