DOT’s new plan for gridlock: ‘more slash and burn’

| 7/29/2008

A Bush administration plan that promotes tolling and public-private partnerships is not worth much with a federal election approaching in November, critics of the proposal said Tuesday, July 29.

Officials with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association say the new plan just unveiled by U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters is nothing more than “slash and burn” policy.

Peters spoke to reporters via teleconference on Tuesday to promote the administration’s reform proposal, which emphasizes congestion pricing, toll roads and public-private partnerships. Click here to read it and other related documents.

“These partnerships are now widely recognized as an innovative approach that can reduce project costs, accelerate project delivery, and transfer risks to the private sector instead of the taxpayer,” Peters said.

OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer said the plan is equivalent to putting a “for sale” sign on the nation’s infrastructure.

“The comments today were just more of the same slash and burn approach that has characterized this administration’s approach to transportation,” Spencer told Land Line.

“The administration is on its way out, putting a for sale sign on our highways as a last ditch effort to reward to their buddies on Wall Street. These folks’ approach to government is to destroy and build something back form the ashes while rewarding their buddies and big contributors.”

House officials on Capitol Hill say the plan isn’t likely to get very far with Democratic leadership.

“For the most part, it’s the same thing we’ve heard and rejected in the past, so I don’t think it’s going to have that great of an impact,” Jim Berard, communications director for the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, told Land Line.

“We’ve talked about these public-private partnerships and tolling and everything. This really doesn’t have any vision for a comprehensive national system.”

Peters wasn’t the only Department of Transportation administrator promoting the administration’s proposal on Tuesday.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator John Hill spoke at Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems in Elyria, OH, while acting Administrator James Ray of the Federal Highway Administration gave a similar speech at the Eaton Corporation Innovation Center in Southfield, MI.

– By David Tanner, staff writer