By David Tanner
Grab your government-speak dictionary. It’s time to add a new buzzword. Livability.
You may ask: What is “livability”? Well, that’s a very good question – one without a very good answer.
One person’s definition of “livability” could be another person’s nightmare.
Let’s face it; each of us would define so-called livable communities differently if given the chance. Rural, urban and suburban residents would certainly do so. That’s why the Obama administration’s call for a proposed new Office of Livable Communities is raising concerns.
It’s the right thing to ask questions of the administration about this initiative, because we’re seeing indications that more of your highway user fees, including fuel taxes, will be used for grants to pay for transit, walking trails, bike trails and the like.
No matter if you’re for or against walking, biking and taking the bus or train, one thing is certain: Highway user fees are supposed to pay for roads and bridges. Period.
For some, the DOT having absolute discretion over livable communities is worrisome. For example, take the administration’s talk about bringing new freight hubs to rural America.
Not every community wants to expand with new interchanges, rail corridors and freight hubs. Just ask the people of Texas who continue to fight against the Trans-Texas Corridor. Their land and their livelihood – i.e., their livability – are on the line. This is very much a rural-urban thing.
The administration needs to come out and say exactly what this is all about and include detailed, concrete definitions of livable. Until that happens, federal highway money needs to stay parked right where it is. LL