Loss of Public Trust Hamstrings Transportation Policy Reform

Ken Orski’s most recent issue of Innovation Briefs (Vol. 21, No. 11) reports on a recent high-level Congressional panel at the annual meeting of the Coalition for America’s Gateways and Trade Corridors. The panel and conference participants engaged on a full range of issues relating to transportation policy, and it became clear the White House has no interest in moving a major transportation bill through Congress before the mid-term elections. Political leadership is also punting the issue of funding transportation infrastructure down the road.

One reason is the lack of public support for funding solutions, which is also rooted in a general lack of public trust in government. According to Orski:

Does the public perceive a crisis? What do your constituents tell you?” asked one participant. Members of the Senate panel did not answer the question directly but their comments left no doubt as to how they assess the political environment. The public, they suggested, is skeptical that any additional money would result in tangible improvements in mobility. The level of public trust in the federal government’s ability to solve the nation’s problems is low. Local transportation tax initiatives get to be approved because local officials can point to specific improvements that new taxes will buy. People know what they are voting for and see tangible results for their tax dollars. They do not have the same sense of trust and confidence in the promises of the federal government. We have not done a good enough job of presenting the case for infrastructure investment at the federal level, was the panelists circumspect conclusion.”