Keeping the green in infrastructure

Sarah Gardner Jan 7, 2009

Keeping the green in infrastructure

Sarah Gardner Jan 7, 2009


Steve Chiotakis: Of course, a lot of people want a piece of the economic stimulus pie. And with President-elect Obama’s focus on the nation’s infrastructure, some are challenging old-school thinking for “greener” pastures. From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, Sarah Gardner reports.

Sarah Gardner: State transportation officials have identified 5,000 projects they want funded. They say they all could start within six months and put several million Americans to work.

Tony Dorsey is with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. He says this kind of spending will create all sorts of jobs.

Tony Dorsey: Not only boots on the ground at the construction site, but you’re talking about white-collar jobs, engineering jobs, jobs in the architectural field. We’re talking about jobs in steel plants and in concrete facilities.

But environmentalists and smart growth advocates say the wish list puts too much emphasis on highways and not enough on mass transit. They argue new roads, especially, just encourage more gas-guzzling, pollution and sprawl.

David Goldberg is with the nonprofit Transportation for America:

David Goldberg: They’re projects that have been in the pipeline for a while, from a time when gas was cheap and we were seeing a growth in driving every year. And it doesn’t make sense to build them as though it were 1950.

States generally control how their federal transportation dollars are spent. But Colin Peppard at Friends of the Earth says his group is pushing for a mechanism in the stimulus bill that would screen projects to make sure the money is spent quickly and “well.”

Colin Peppard: And by well, I mean spent on projects that are going to reduce our use of oil and reduce our global warming emissions.

Peppard’s group is reinforcing its rhetoric with online ads this week urging Congress to ban new highway construction from the stimulus bill. The ads are headlined “Road to Nowhere.”

But Tony Dorsey says critics are losing sight of the stimulus plan’s main goal:

Dorsey: When you talk about green, right now the kind of green that most concerns our American worker is the kind that’s going to pay the mortgage.

But transportation officials won’t get everything they’d like. Their list costs $64 billion. Right now, the Obama team proposes only $25 billion for infrastructure, including school repairs.

I’m Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.

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