We wrote recently on Streetsblog Capitol Hill about a proposal by Republican members of Congress to eliminate the federal gas tax and turn transportation funding entirely over to the states. This proposal — “devolution,” it’s called — has been a conservative dream for decades.
Transportation reformers tend to hate the idea because state DOTs on the whole are pretty intensely focused on highway building. One of the goals, as described by the Heritage Foundation, which is playing a leading role in promoting the devolution bill, is to allow states to forgo funding transit altogether. But some urbanists believe there might be a bright side to eliminating federal funding for transportation, since many highway boondoggles pursued at the state and local level are inspired by the promise of federal funds.
Today, Matt Johnson at Greater Greater Washington has some thoughts on what it might mean for one state in particular:
In Georgia, [bill sponsor Tom] Graves’ home state, the state constitution expressly prohibits the expenditure of gasoline tax revenues on anything other than roads, so without federal money, the Peach State would essentially only invest in highways. That’s actually not a huge change.
MARTA, which operates rail, bus, and paratransit in Fulton and DeKalb counties, is the largest transit agency in the country that receives no funding from the state government. Of course, MARTA was able to build their rail system using local and federal funds. But without the federal share, it would have been impossible.
Which is probably what Graves and Lee want. After all, the GOP has long suggested that investing in transit is a wasteful subsidy, while investing in roads is a sound investment for economic development.