Best Thing We Could Do for Transportation: Abolish USDOT?

I’m a fan of Chuck Marohn and his “Strong Towns” organization. We start from different places but get to generally the same priorities for transportation spending. His focus is fiscal sustainability and in a recent podcast, he makes the case that Federal transportation policy, as implemented by the US Department of Transportation, has the effect of prioritizing growth over maintenance.

Essentially the argument is that the feds collect gas taxes in all 50 states, then return those funds as matches for large capital projects (for both roads and transit) that are mostly growth-oriented (at here we can hope to say that our transit projects are smart-growth oriented). But the matching nature of these funds means that local funds are also directed away from maintenance to make the match.

He suggests we’d be better off if the Federal Government stopped collecting gas taxes and instead allowed the states to raise their own gas taxes by an equal amount and make prioritization decisions locally.

He also suggests that since the Feds have matching programs for roads and transit, but not cycling and walking, Bike and Ped advocates would prefer purely local decision making.

In Oregon that might be a big blow for transit, because constitutionally state gas taxes may not be used for transit, but the general proposition is eye-opening.

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