New York Times Undercuts its Call for Transportation Stimulus Investment

Recovery Act logo. Image – Steve Rhodes, Flickr

The New York Times’ Editorial Board believes infrastructure investment should be a priority for the President and Congress in the coming four years (“The Cracks in the Nation’s Foundation.”). That’s good news, we transportation stakeholders need all the voices we can get.

But the Board overlooks some of history and gets a little partisan, observing that

“The need for investment in public works, never more urgent, has become a casualty of Washington’s ideological wars. Republicans were once reliable partners in this kind of necessary spending. But since President Obama spent about 12 percent of the 2009 stimulus on transportation, energy and other infrastructure programs, Republicans have made it a policy to demonize these kinds of investments.”

It’s true that most Republicans have been withering in their criticism of the Recovery Act.  And they’ve opposed any further stimulus proposals. But here are a few nuances the Times Board overlooks:

  • In the House, 186 Republicans voted for MAP-21 (including GOP VP nominee Paul Ryan), while 52 voted against it (“See How Your Representative Voted on MAP-21“)
  • In the Senate, 23 Republicans voted for the bill, and 19 voted against (“See How Your Senator Voted on MAP-21“)
  • A small group of Republican House members who essentially killed a proposal from other Republicans which many believed would negatively impact transit funding in the future.
  • Four Republican Senator broke a logjam and enabled MAP-21 to move forward in the Senate (“4 Unsung Heroes Critical to Passing Senate Transportation Bill“).
  • While Democratic Senators have been supportive of the President’s post-ARRA infrastructure stimulus proposals, none have actually passed the Senate.

It’s fair to note that a number of Republicans tried to cut transportation significantly in the last two years. Rep. Paul Ryan was one of them, but when his effort was defeated, he eventually came to support MAP-21.

Good for the NYT for calling out the need for investing in infrastructure. It should give less ink casting blame, and more ink to its arguments like this:

“The biggest reason to spend money on these projects is that they are desperately needed in every city and state. Around the country, there are 70,000 structurally deficient bridges. . . . The president’s $50 billion proposal for highways, rail, mass transit and aviation, hard as it will be to achieve, is only a slim down payment on the real job. . . . Around the country, ridership on transit has grown significantly since the 1990s, but federal investments have fallen far short. The Transportation Department says that if $18 billion were spent every year — 40 percent more than is being spent now — transit systems might get to a state of good repair by 2028. But that does not include spending to improve service or keep up with growth, or to protect systems like New York’s from storm damage.”