Thursday, December 18, 2008

Frank Busalacchi: which one will show up today?

The New York Times reports that Frank Busalacchi is supporting the "fix it first" ethose for any stimulus bill highway spending that may come along. Frank's endorsement of that very sane policy is a laugher, given his advocacy for new, bigger and totally unnecessary projects during his tenure as Wisconsin secretary of transportation.

Here are excerpts from a letter that Frank signed, along with many others, setting desireable criteria for infrastructure spending. The choice is ours: should we laugh or gag?

I. FIX: To immediately create jobs and stimulate economic growth we need to “fix it first,” that is, invest in the repair and maintenance of the country’s deteriorated bridges, roads, public transit, passenger & freight rail, electric grids and other essential infrastructure components that have been neglected for decades.

III. GREEN: Priority should be given to projects that foster energy independence, safeguard the environment, promote healthy & compact communities, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

V. COUNT: Funding must be set aside to measure and analyze the results of these federal investments and their outcomes: job creation, cost-effectiveness, greenhouse gas reductions, increased energy efficiency, etc.

If America is to remain economically competitive, we cannot afford “business as usual” when it comes to infrastructure investments. Therefore, a new federal oversight committee is required to both streamline the investment process and also establish accountability.

We propose creating a National Recovery and Renewal Council, comprised of representatives from federal, state, and city agencies, as well as the private sector. The Council would report directly to the White House, charged with eliminating the red tape in implementing projects, as well as developing criteria and accountability measures that will guarantee that America meets its infrastructure goals, from energy independence to reduced carbon emissions to increased mobility.

About that accountability and oversight? Frank was not so hot on it just last week. Just give us the money, he said. This is what he told the National Journal -- Transportation blog.

The quickest and fairest way to distribute stimulus funds for transportation projects would be through the existing federal formulas. Where formulas do not exist, it may be appropriate to distribute the funds to state departments of transportation based on the percentage of obligation authority provided to each state in the last federal transportation appropria­tions bill. These methods were proposed in the House and Senate stimulus bills. The state transport­ation departments are in the best position to administer the funds and to prioritize the projects that are in already their transportation plans.

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