President Obama Still Doesn’t Get It On Transportation Reform

WASHINGTON, Nov. 8 — At the Port of New Orleans today, President Obama reiterated his call for increased federal infrastructure spending, which has been a common theme during the Obama administration.

“Nationally, we are falling behind. We are relying on old stuff,” he told the crowd. Unfortunately, for all the rhetoric, the administration has done little to address the real problems facing America’s transportation networks. The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) has long called for real transportation system reforms, and again urges the president to seek out now ideas, rather than entrenching the inefficient tax-and-spend status quo, which has led to a great deal of waste, fraud and abuse.

“Despite his repeated claims to the contrary, President Obama’s record on transportation infrastructure is one of failure,” said Marc Scribner, a CEI research fellow. “The White House has been largely absent from the major transportation debates since the administration’s early unsuccessful efforts to promote an incredibly costly and inefficient national high-speed passenger rail system.

“Many politicians and pundits claim there is currently an infrastructure crisis. There certainly are worthwhile transportation projects in need of funding, but the main problems facing the country are related to government mismanagement, not a lack of spending. If the president and Congress actually cared about improving our nation’s transportation networks, they would advocate pro-market policies rather than the same outdated and wasteful policies that have plagued this environment for far too long.”

Instead of more centralized, federal spending and taxation, Scribner said the administration and Congress should support:

  • Increased funding and management devolution to the states;
  • Repeal of the federal prohibition of tolling Interstate highways;
  • Adoption of user pricing to both fund infrastructure investments and reduce congestion;
  • Streamlining of environmental review regulations;
  • Improved competition and transparency in procurement policies;
  • Commercializing air traffic control, as has already been done in Canada, Britain, Germany, South Africa, Australia and elsewhere with great success;
  • Private investment and management of highway and airport facilities; and
  • Ending unnecessary politicization and involvement of irrelevant “stakeholders,” exemplified by the Obama administration’s pandering to far-left environmentalist groups over the Keystone XL pipeline.

“Instead of knee-jerk appeals for more government to fix America’s transportation networks, the president should look for inspiration in private sector success stories such as America’s freight railroads,” Scribner said. “These private companies have flourished following partial deregulation three decades ago, with average freight rail rates falling by nearly 50 percent and private industry investment totaling more than $500 billion since 1980. Back then, a bipartisan consensus formed around the need to reform economically disastrous regulatory policy. This administration could learn a lot from the Carter administration in this respect.”