Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Audacious stimulus

As the stimulus package moves through the Senate this week, urbanists are tracking the jockeying on transportation and public works infrastructure. How much of the spending will be for new highway and bridge construction, and how much for transit, "fix it first" roadway and bridge repair, and other aspects of green infrastructure? And how will the money be spent -- by state departments of transportation as they see fit, or with some green-oriented strings attached? The House version of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Economic Recovery Bill called for roughly $30 billion for highways and $10 billion for transit and inter-city rail. In December, Lincoln Institute senior fellow Armando Carbonell urged achieving multiple goals – including energy-efficiency and targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions -- and using a new framework of megaregions for making the investments, in this op-ed essay appearing in The Boston Globe. He was also a signatory in the "Call to New Administration: Only One Chance to Do this Right, Invest Wisely," a blueprint to guide these dramatic new investments, composed after a coalition of leading civic, business, environmental, and transportation leaders came together at Pocantico, N.Y. The blueprint, posted at The New York Times Economix blog and available at the America 2050 Web site, calls for an emphasis on repair and maintenance, projects that foster energy independence, compact communities, and emissions reductions; a phasing-in of spending to allow for strategic planning; workforce training; and a new system of oversight to ensure the projects have desired outcomes. Thus far, the legislation has few of these characteristics. Good reading on the infrastructure aspect of the stimulus can be found by Michael Grunwald in Time magazine, Nicole Gelinas in City Journal, Libby Tucker in the New York Times Green Inc. blog, David Leonhardt in the New York Times, and among many opinion essays, this one by Congress for the New Urbanism president John Norquist on Planetizen. The Los Angeles Times has a good summary of this extraordinary, evolving package, and a good place to keep up with highway vs. transit news is at the Transportation for America blog.