In a new column, Reason Foundation's Sam Staley and Adrian Moore write:
States receive most transportation funding from the federal government based on a complex formula. The money isn't given to projects based on their potential economic impact, efficiency or effectiveness. Congress allocates a large chunk through a process driven by special interests and earmarks. The number of "earmarks"-specific projects inserted into transportation legislation by individual members of Congress-increased from just 10 in 1982, to 1,850 in 1998, to 6,371 in the 2005 federal highway bill. Throwing a couple hundred billion dollars into this system with a mandate to "spend it fast" is a recipe for waste that won't meet the stimulus goals of the incoming Obama administration.
Mr. Obama, seems to recognized this danger. On Jan. 6, the Associated Press reported, "President-elect Barack Obama says he will bar pork-barrel projects from the massive economic stimulus bill he wants Congress to pass." Mr. Obama said, "We are going to ban all earmarks, the process by which individual members insert projects without review." So we'll see how that plays out in the real world with Congress.
The full column examines ways to fix the nation's transportation funding system.