Financing the highway system
We bought a house less than two years ago. It's a small, frame home. Cute, I guess, and one that fits our needs well. It is in good shape, not all that old, really, but the time for a paint job is approaching.
We've painted houses before, though never a two-story, and are not intimidated by the task. There are some minor repairs that will need to be done. I can probably do them, but they won't be too expensive if we hire them out. However, before proceeding with repairs, scraping and painting, our first decision was whether we might forego all of that and put siding on the house.
Siding is appealing to us in that it cuts down on maintenance, including painting. On the down side, it comes with a hefty price tag. We got a quote last fall, but needed to make a decision by now in order to lock in the price. Hence the number crunching.
We both wanted the siding. It is definitely easier to just hire someone to do a job that should last for decades. And we could manage to pay for it. The temptation was very strong to "just do it." However, when we looked at the big picture, it was obvious that the smarter thing would be for us to lower our expectations, keep spending within our means, and play the odds for a more secure tomorrow.
And that's where I thought of the Trans-Texas Corridor, toll roads, super highways, etc.
I am not convinced that our existing transportation infrastructure is as woefully inadequate as we've been hearing. I cannot help but believe we would be better served by rolling up our sleeves and fixing what we have, even adding a new coat of paint. We already have roads going everywhere. Doesn't it make more sense to work with that network rather than cutting new swaths through the countryside?
Sure, there must be some give-and-take. For example, an expanding roadway cannot fit through every town and loops and bypasses will be necessary, but the land required for that will not be nearly as extensive as the TTC and much of it will play into the future growth of the towns they bypass.
The problem with trying to relate our home fix-up decision to government spending is the realities of money. Leah and I know that we will have to survive within a certain monetary range. Our government does not have that constraint. The decision makers decide what they want, not just what is absolutely needed, and sell us on the idea. The funds, supposedly, will come from somewhere.
One of the ways to pay for new highways that has been floated is to give road-building rights to private companies. Such a company could then collect tolls on that road for something like 50 years. Compounding the problem of removing highways from public control is the fact that some of the private companies would come from overseas.
So, we would be driving our Japanese cars burning Saudi gasoline while paying a French company for the right to drive on its road … in Texas.
It is well past time for us to do some soul searching and face the reality that we are not living within our means. Instead of pouring any more money down TTC - in addition to the millions spent already on studies, designs and public hearings - let us see how we can make do with what we have.
Steve Martaindale is a self-syndicated columnist. Write him at penmanmail-steve@yahoo. com.