Monday, December 28, 2009

Democrats' new jobs bill evades Wall Street, but sprawls away from Main Street

Congress of New Urbanism CEO John Norquist gives President Obama and congressional Democrats higher marks for not patronizing Wall Street as they did with the stimulus, but he also explains how federal money still won't make it to the local communities that need it most:
It's progress this time that the funds will be flowing away from, not toward, Wall Street. And the legislation will keep some people working, especially in local and state government. But will funds from this bill really reach Main Street, as its name implies? Well, not so much. When it comes to the largest spending item in the bill — $27.5 billion in highway spending — Main Street is missing.

The $27.5 billion isn't targeted to rebuild streets at the heart of older cities and towns, the cherished settings for Memorial Day parades and holiday light displays. No, the money will primarily go to projects that government knows best —the expansion of wide, motor-vehicle-only highways that go hand-in-hand with energy-wasting sprawl. This follows the earlier stimulus bill that favored massive highway projects, including a batch of expensive "highways to nowhere" that an examination by the Infrastructurist website concluded "make no sense."

The new bill does reserve $8.4 billion for transit and $800 million for Amtrak. But just when U.S. real estate markets are turning to Main Street and traditional neighborhood design, Congress throws $27.5 billion at the infrastructure — road widening — that supports sprawl.
Inasmuch as Republicans are generally heartless toward Main Street, their Democratic counterparts are generally clueless about it.

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