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Transportation Secretary Discusses Concerns About National Infrastructure

"The bridge collapse in Minneapolis earlier this month raised questions about the state of the aging transportation infrastructure. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters discusses what the government is doing to ensure its safety."

From MacNeil/Lehrer Report on PBS - August 15, 2007
See the full interview

Confidence in government spending

GWEN IFILL: I was curious about something you said in an interview recently, in which you said a lot of Americans no longer trust, essentially -- and tell me if I'm misphrasing you -- that their money will be spent correctly, they no longer have that confidence. Is that what drives your thinking about whether spending should be the first priority here rather than investment?

MARY PETERS: Well, I think it's a very good point. You know, I have said that I think the reason the gas tax hasn't been increased since 1993 is because there is a lack of investor confidence. The public isn't at all confident when they go to that gas pump and pay that 18.4-cent federal gas tax that that is actually going to improve the systems. I mean, much was said about the so-called "bridge to nowhere" in the last transportation act and how some $200-odd million dollars were going to Alaska to build a bridge there, and yet Americans are sitting stuck in traffic in many cases. They're not seeing the improvements that they believe need to be made in their neighborhoods, and especially in some of the high-growth areas of the United States.

So I think people are reluctant to spend more money unless they know that money is going to actually make an improvement in the transportation infrastructure.

GWEN IFILL: Who is spending the money inappropriately?

MARY PETERS: Well, there's about probably some 10 percent to 20 percent of the current spending that is going to projects that really are not transportation, directly transportation-related. Some of that money is being spent on things, as I said earlier, like bike paths or trails. Some is being spent on museums, on restoring lighthouses, as I indicated.

GWEN IFILL: Congress, essentially, you're saying is spending...

MARY PETERS: Yes, ma'am.

 

Index of articles on federal funding programs

Supporting trails and greenways

Interview with USDOT Secretary Mary Peters

Letter from American Trails to Secretary Peters

SecretaryPeters' remarks at 2004 Trails Symposium

Sen. Coburn's proposal to redirect federal bike funds

Rep. McHenry opposing bicycling and trails funding

 

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