Fix It First, Expand It Second, Reward It Third: A New Strategy for America's Highways - Brookings Institution

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Fix It First, Expand It Second, Reward It Third: A New Strategy for America's Highways - Brookings Institution by Matthew E. Kahn, Professor of Economics, UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and
David M. Levinson, RP Braun/CTS Chair in Transportation, University of Minnesota

Abstract: The roads and bridges that make up our nation's highway infrastructure are in disrepair as a result of insufficient maintenance--a maintenance deficit that increases travel times, damages vehicles, and can lead to accidents that cause injuries or even fatalities. This deficit is in part due to a prioritization of new projects over care for existing infrastructure and contributes to a higher-cost, lower-return system of investment. This paper proposes a reorganization of our national highway infrastructure priorities to "Fix It First, Expand It Second, and Reward It Third." First, all revenues from the existing federal gasoline tax would be devoted to repair, maintain, rehabilitate, reconstruct, and enhance existing roads and bridges on the National Highway System. Second, funding for states to build new and expand existing roads would come from a newly created Federal Highway Bank, which would require benefit-cost analysis to demonstrate the efficacy of a new build. Third, new and expanded transportation infrastructure that meets or exceeds projected benefits would receive an interest rate subsidy from a Highway Performance Fund to be financed by net revenues from the Federal Highway Bank.

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Ideas for getting this implemented:

- Any highway or bridge older than some number of decades that gets some level of rework is eligible for renaming. That makes each reconstruction project more valuable for the politicians who back it, especially if they don't like whoever the infrastructure was originally named for.

- Prepare like the drafters of the Patriot Act did: Draft the law as if it was a response to an infrastructure failure disaster, keep it on the shelf, and build a quiet coalition of legislators who would support it if the political winds were right. Then, when a high-profile bridge comes down due to insufficient maintenance, have your legislators pull the bill out and ram it through amidst the national feeling of emergency. (Inspiration from "The High Road," by Terry Fallis http://terryfallis.com/the-high-road/ .)

David Levinson

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This page contains a single entry by David Levinson published on February 25, 2011 8:52 AM.

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