Ray LaHood’s Smoke and Mirrors

This morning, The Wall Street Journal‘s Washington Wire quoted me “disapproving” of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s TIGER II grant picks. LaHood “countered” critics of his program by… not addressing their criticisms.

Mr. LaHood countered that much of the money will build bridges and improve railways to relieve congestion. Overall, the department said about 29% of the money handed out would go to road projects, 26% is aimed at mass transit, 20% for rail projects, 16% for port improvements and just 4% for bike paths and walkways — the favorites of environmental groups.

Mr. LaHood added he would have preferred to have $600 billion to work with instead of the $600 million he was allotted ($15 million of that was for administrative costs.) The DOT noted that states proposed $19 billion worth of projects.

“If their criticism is that we didn’t haven [sic] enough money, or enough resources, they ought to talk to Congress,” he said of his critics.

No, Secretary LaHood. Our criticism is not about you lacking a bigger pot of money to dole out to your preferred projects; it’s about a significant portion of the transportation grants going to projects that harm mobility. These include diverting scarce transportation resources to projects that aim to narrow roads, convert a highway section to a lower-speed city street, and build expensive bike/pedestrian trails in low-density areas with nonexistent bicycle commuters (apparently, DOT has become an extension of the Park Service). Not to mention the $100 million that went to wasteful rail transit projects.

Is Obama’s DOT anti-mobility? Take a look at the list of TIGER II grant winners (capital grants, planning grants) for yourself, note which projects received the most funding, and draw your own conclusions.