Tuesday, September 07, 2010

If you build it, they will go ...

The Obama administration has bailed out Detroit. They've bailed out Wall Street. And now they're finally bailing out something I agree with: Route 66.

Over the long weekend, a plan was unveiled for the first large-scale upgrade to our nation's infrastructure in over 50 years. It's something I've been calling for for years.

Granted, there was some infrastructure in the president's stimulus bill last year, but not nearly as much as their should have been. This new proposal aims to spend at least $50 billion on refurbishing roads, railways and airports.

Anyone who spends any time in their car in Western New York knows all-too-well that we need new roads. We need new bridges. And we simply need better ways to get from point A to point B.

The six year plan is designed to rebuilding 150,000 miles of roads; 4,000 miles of railways, and 150 miles of airport runways. It also calls for a new air navigation system to get us to our destinations faster.

While the stimulus package put money in people's pockets, this proposal fixes problems that have stood for far too long while doing the same.

Of course, as much sense as this makes to me, there are people who hate the idea. Before the plan was even formally announced, I was hearing the typical response from the ultra right-wing faction of this greatly-divided nation: No.

I've always maintained the the best government is the least government. I despise government intrusion into our lives. For the most part, I tend to think that – individually – we can take care of ourselves.

There are, however, certain things that we must do collectively. And for those things, government is a necessity. One of the big ones on that list of things that must be done collectively is transportation infrastructure.

Could you imagine if we were all required to pave the portion of road in front of our homes? It would be an unsafe, nonuniform roughshod mess.

It makes much more sense to have government do it for us and bill us in the form of taxes.

There are some who would say that transportation infrastructure should be the responsibility of the states. Again I say, “phooey.” It would still be a nonuniform roughshod mess, just on a grander scale. And, frankly, there are some states that simply couldn't afford it. Not to mention, with the number of tourists and visitors we get throughout New York State, why should they be exempt from picking up part of the tab on fixing our roads?

It seems like when the federal government leaves the states to figure things out, this state then passes that burden onto the counties. In that case, we'd have our counties trying to improve our infrastructure. Niagara and Erie County have some of the highest property taxes in the country. And I trust them even less than I trust the state – which is saying a lot. So the thought of them being charged with building roads – let alone bridges and runways - scares the heck out of me.

I'm not saying that the federal government will do it flawlessly, but it will be better than the states could do. And certainly better than the nothing we've been doing for decades.