“New Year Predictions”, Lambert’s Lagniappe, Feb 2010

As a sign of yet another year’s end, every­one who is an expert, ranging from football, to finances, and to health, are giv­ing their wise counsel. Here in New Orleans everyone is making Superbowl predictions. We know that the future is uncertain, and while we can only guess at where things are going, it is still useful to consider what we believe (or hope) will happen.

For the economy, most agree that we are slowly coming off the bottom, but the halcyon days remain a long way off. Regarding infrastructure funding, the discussions about reauthorization of the SAFETEA-LU, the TIGER grant process, and the need for additional investment in transportation continue. However, I am struck with the notion that we can not agree on what kind of transportation system we want to build and how it will be financed. But it seems that if only we have enough money we could build everything everyone wants.

Recently, I served as a panelist at the first of Secretary LaHood’s listening sessions. In going through the sessions, it was interesting how several panelists wanted a new transportation system based primarily on urban passenger transportation. The irony was also how everyone assumed that a torrent of federal funds will be unleashed to assist in mostly local transportation issues. It appears as if we have ignored the role of the federal and state government when it comes to providing infrastructure. The Federal role traditionally was to ensure the network works, and by extension, access to that network. Such an approach focused on connecting areas, as well as the major networks in the urban area and rural access points. The State was set up to ensure access exists for its citizens to the Federally funded infrastructure, but also to State and local networks.

While everyone sees the reality for reinvestment in transportation, it appears that most want the discussion to largely involve solving the urban transportation problem. This somewhat myopic view, while critical to local urban mobility, is not wise. It ignores both the role of equity amongst projects as well as the greater role of access to global markets. But it is safe to say that the future of transportation is based on many, but conflicting, views that must be reconciled as the Nation commits to a new transportation future. And that need for creating a national vision is about the only thing all the experts agree on.

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One Response to ““New Year Predictions”, Lambert’s Lagniappe, Feb 2010”

  1. Steve Kale says:

    Bruce: Regarding your February Lagniappe, you might find this interesting even though it’s now a couple months old: