NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Transit Pork Gone Hog Wild

November 5, 1997

A bill renewing the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act is the "biggest pork barrel in the 105th Congress," says a new study from the Cato Institute. Congress recently passed an interim six-month reauthorization of ISTEA (pronounced "ice tea") and is expected to vote on the $218 billion, six-year bill early next year.

Analyst Randal O'Toole argues that:

  • Except for a few provisions allowing more toll roads and experiments with congestion pricing, "the ISTEA sticks with the same old command-and-control, central planning process that has caused most transportation problems in the first place."
  • ISTEA promotes mass transit such as light rail and subways that carry only a fraction of commuters and cost 10-to-100 times more per mile to build than roads.
  • Also, it creates perverse incentives for cities to increase congestion, making them less likely to meet federal air quality standards.

O'Toole recommends that federal lawmakers get out of the transportation business and "allow cities to focus on transportation, rather than the game of getting dollars from the U.S. Treasury."

Source: Randal O'Toole, "ISTEA: A Poisonous Brew for American Cities," Policy Analysis No. 287, November 5, 1997, Cato Institute, 1000 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20001, (202) 842-0200.

 

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