I say “Amen!” to the conclusion of this argument by the Heritage Foundation, the arch-conservative think tank in Washington, DC.
Heritage analysts Alison Fraser and Jonathan Swanson, writing on the federal highway bill:
“Congress and the President should work towards the termination of the federal highway program and return the responsibility and financial resources for transportation to the states.”
I don’t concur with every point in the essay, but I second the gist. There’s no longer (if there ever was) any rationale for federal taxes and spending for highways (or, for that matter, transit). There’s no reason users shouldn’t pay every cent of the full cost of transportation. Transportation, in economic terms, has no positive “externalities,” unlike education, public health, and environmental protection.
The reason (if you can call it that) for a federal highway program was that the states never would have built such massive freeways at all without federal largesse. Look at Canada, where provinces and localities build the roads and where freeways—and the resulting sprawl—are scarce. Would that America were so lucky!
The existence of big pots of federal grant funding tends to turn local transportation planning into a matter of shooting the moon: dreaming up popular but outlandishly expensive projects that can attract federal dollars (which, in turn, build the reputations of the politicians who bring those dollars home).
Such a system militates against both fiscal responsibility and sustainability.
OK, go ahead: attack me!