Fix-It-First Policy Must Tackle Road Expansions on Track for Federal Loans

On Tuesday, President Obama pledged during the State of the Union to adopt a “Fix it First” approach to infrastructure, which would focus on maintaining what’s already built instead of building expensive, sprawl-inducing new roads.

New York's transit-less, mega-wide Tappan-Zee Bridge is in line for TIFIA funds. Image: New York State via the Transport Politic

But Yonah Freemark at the Transport Politic points out that federal financing is on track to accomplish the exact opposite — expanding roads:

The projects the Administration is likely to begin financing through the TIFIA reduced-interest loan program are likely to take the opposite tack, for the most part supporting new construction over maintenance of the old. Of 28 projects that have submitted preliminary applications through the middle of last month for financing over the next two years, all but four are new construction or expansion of existing road, transit, or airport facilities. Moreover, road projects are likely to account for a large majority of infrastructure funded. Of the applications that have been received by the DOT, more than 70% are highway projects.

This is a troubling reflection of the state of federal transportation funding, for it suggests that there is still far too much funding going towards new roads construction, rather than renovations or public transportation infrastructure. It suggests that TIFIA — deemed an “innovative” federal infrastructure financing program — may simply replicate more of the same thinking about how to spend Washington’s money on transportation.

As Streetsblog reported last summer, TIFIA is on track to finance a lot of road construction in part because Congress wiped out almost all of the program’s performance criteria when it wrote the new transportation bill, MAP-21.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Systemic Failure reports that Florida DOT Secretary Ananth Prasad raised the speed limit on a street to 45 mph after he was ticketed for speeding there. Alex Block says a recent post by the Urbanophile painted “urbanists” with too broad a brush. And Ride Solutions floats a theory that carpooling can improve the local economy through knowledge exchange.