Stimulus Looking Greener?

Opinions vary…

My first reaction to the President-elect’s radio address this weekend was the same as the folks over at Streetsblog (where they have posted the address): too much focus on roads and bridges.

But urbanist columnist Neal Peirce is more optimistic. He proposes three filters for stimulus projects:

States instead could be instructed to use “mode neutral” measures to decide between road and transit projects, and employ a “three E’s” filter — evidence a project not just stimulates the economy, but is also environment-friendly and sensitive to equity issues. Plus, major chunks of the stimulus cash should go directly to existing metropolitan planning organizations, with instructions to give major attention to such Obama priorities as public-transit funding, biking, walking and health, maybe even connections with affordable housing.

It still worries me that the Federal Highway Administration is very good at just turning money over to states on a formula basis, while the Federal Transit Administration has to review every project for cost-effectiveness. If the Feds just handed money over to MPOs for transit and other alternative modes, that would be a good thing for the country, but maybe not so much for Portland. Because we’ve gotten so good at making the case for the cost-effectiveness of our transit projects, we probably would not get nearly as large a slice of the transit pie if it were distributed on a formula basis.

5 responses to “Stimulus Looking Greener?”

  1. I doubt you have to worry much about this.
    I bet Portland gets everything its little heart desires.


    I bet ya!

  2. Good point, Chris, about requirements being different, (dare I say, unconstitutional), between investments in roads vs transit. The captains of industry, business and finance have a bottom line that serves them and their stockholders at the expense of serving the American people. A banker will giddily finance suburban sprawl knowing extra profit will be made financing the cars that come with that lifestyle. An environmentalist will giddily support electric cars not realizing that bankers are laughing at them behind their backs.

  3. The Brooks article not withstanding ( I can’t figure out that guy, is he a ‘conservative’ or not)
    I still say there should be plenty of money to get all the rail type vehicles your little hearts desire.

    Blumenaur has pull here.

  4. I think the most important piece of this is putting the power in the hands of MPOs, rather than DOTs. While we’re lucky to have a rational DOT in Oregon, many (most) DOTs are in bed with roadbuilders or developers, and nearly all could be considered Robert Moses proteges.

    DOTs are good at building roads, bad at deciding where to spend money.

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