NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Highway Bill Produces Pork, Not Highways

March 18, 2004

President Bush's proposed highway bill for 2005 will spend about $256 billion on roads and transit over the next six years, compared with the Senate proposal of $318 billion. Both bills' hefty price tags, however, are laden with inefficient transit projects and unrelated "pork," says Ronald Utt (Heritage Foundation).

Examples include:

  • About one third of the federal highway trust fund is used for beautification projects, bike trails, historic renovation projects and other unrelated highway projects.
  • Over the last 30 years, licensed drivers have increased by 71 percent, registered vehicles are up 99 percent, and miles drive are up 148 percent, while new road miles have only increased 6 percent.
  • The percentage of journey-to-work trips using mass transit has declined steadily since 1970 to currently about 4.7 percent of all trips, yet the government has invested $130 billion in transit projects over that time.

Unfortunately, the majority of taxpayers who are dealing with daily congestion and traffic problems are reaping the fewest benefits from federal highway spending, says Utt:

  • Under current transportation bills being considered, nationwide taxpayer funds will be allocated to just a few cities where transit ridership is highest, such as New York City (transit ridership is 42 percent).
  • In 2001, Texas received only 4.5 percent of federal highway funds while paying 6.9 percent into the fund; in comparison, West Virginia received 1.4 percent of highway funds while paying only 0.7 percent.

Consequently, Utt recommends the federal government stop wasting taxpayer dollars, use toll roads to help fund highway projects and hand over the responsibility for roads and transit to the states.

Source: Ronald D. Utt, Ph.D., "Yes, Mr. President, Veto the Highway Bill," February 13, 2004, Backgrounder No. 1725, Heritage Foundation.


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