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Winston Suggests Obama Trim The Fat

In an editorial piece published in the Wall Street Journal on December 28, 2008, Clifford Winston says President-Elect Barack Obama needs to trim the pork out of a variety of projects, including transportation, as part of his stimulus package.
“Critically, his administration needs to face the problem that those who use roads, bridges and airports do not pay for the full cost of maintenance, nor do they pay for the cost they impose on other travelers by contributing to congestion,” writes Winston, economist, author and senior fellow at the Brookings Institute and a speaker at the ARN Revenue Conference & Exhibition next month in Orlando, Fla. “Those who use public buses and trains have long been heavily subsidized to encourage ridership.”
He goes on to say that because travelers don’t really pay the full cost of the use of  roads and airports, there is a call to build more. However, if the actual cost were to be paid, such as via tolls, demand would decrease.
Winston also says federal regulations make the cost of providing infrastructure, including for airports, exorbitant. The Federal Aviation Administration and Environmental Protection Agency’s rules mean it takes decades and billions of dollars to build new runways, he says, and laying off employees becomes expensive because of the Federal Transit Act.
Winston recommends a two-step approach: “First, work with Congress to address things that can reduce costs in the short run. … Second, formulate a carefully considered set of infrastructure investments that are likely to generate the largest benefits to the traveling public, while boosting employment.
“In my view, such investments are likely to include building additional runways at congested airports and expanding highways in the most congested metropolitan areas where land is available to do so,” he continues. “The benefits from such investments will be greater if the driving and flying public are charged prices that actually reflect the costs that they incur.”
To read the editorial piece in its entirety, visit http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123051204977838501.html.