Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters appeared on PBS on August 15 to discuss federal transportation funding in the wake of the I35-W bridge collapse. Cyclists and others may be surprised that she considers funding funneled into programs like ‘bike paths, trails and lighthouses’ as spending not related to transportation.
These two quotes are separated in the conversation, but the first is really required to give context to the second:
MARY PETERS: You know, I think Americans would be shocked to learn that only about 60 percent of the gas tax money that they pay today actually goes into highway and bridge construction. Much of it goes in many, many other areas.
GWEN IFILL: Aren’t many of those projects, even though they’re special interest projects, aren’t they roads and bridges, often?
MARY PETERS: Gwen, some of them are, but many of them are not. There are museums that are being built with that money, bike paths, trails, repairing lighthouses. Those are some of the kind of things that that money is being spent on, as opposed to our infrastructure.
Bike paths and lighthouses ARE infrastructure. Transportation is not only about highways. Lighthouse maintenance (and construction) is traditionally used in college economics courses as an example of a ‘public good’ — something that governments build for safety purposes that may not be suited for privatization. And proper road planning where bicycles are accounted for can often include some form of ‘bicycle path,’ such as Minnesota’s various bridge projects where bicycle river crossings have been incorporated (such as the I494 Wakota Bridge, the I35E Lexington Bridge, and even the long-term plan to turn the Stillwater Lift Bridge, the least ‘sufficient’ bridge in the state, into a cycle/pedestrian crossing only).