Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2007

Choices made to do wrong thing

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Howard Kaplan (‘‘Where does money for roads go?” Aug. 8 letter) suggests that federal and state gas tax dollars have been diverted from roads and bridges to fund light rail projects, and tries to spook people into believing that the bridges will fall down if we build the Purple Line.

Actually, Mr. Kaplan is partly correct: Transportation funds made available for bridge repairs have been diverted to other kinds of transportation projects, namely new highway construction projects like the Intercounty Connector.

A 2003 study by the Surface Transportation Policy Project documents how state departments of transportation have for many years given a low priority to bridge safety. Overall, between 1992 and 2001, the states spent only 73 percent of the bridge funding allocated by Congress — the lowest rate of spending for any of the five major federal highway program areas. This amounts to nearly $8 billion in funding authority that was ‘‘diverted” from bridge repairs to new highway construction projects.

So, let’s stick to the facts and recognize that these issues are about choices, about priorities and about the cost of doing the wrong things — like building the ICC.

Bill Wilkinson, Bethesda