The Case for a Smaller Investment
There are some ranging from the very conservative to the very liberal who argue for more modest levels of road and bridge funding. First, they argue that most of the critical roads and bridges are in an acceptable condition and that the economic, safety, and environmental costs are often exaggerated. Increasing federal spending by more than 25%, they argue, only means that we will invest in roads and bridges further down the cost/benefit ratio priority list.
Second, supporters of a more modest increase observe that expanding their capacity does little in the long run to address the traffic congestion problem. They cite the common experience in which highway expansion only initially results in less congestion and shorter commute times. Over time, those shorter commute times make living farther out from the urban centers more feasible. Consequently, more and cheaper housing is built farther out from cities creating the congestion problem all over again. We will never get ahead of the curve, they argue, by simply expanding road capacity.
Third, some point out that we came to more fully appreciate the advantages of remote work during the pandemic. By not driving our cars to work, some argue, we not only save time and money, but we also reduce the number of injuries and deaths caused by car accidents and reduce carbon emissions. Supporters of a more modest infrastructure investment argue that we do not yet know how much the experience with remote work will decrease the congestion and wear and tear on America’s roads long term. Now, they argue, is not the time for a major increase in roads funding.