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Metro Brew: More pork, less mobility

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

On June 12 a powerful Metro committee, JPACT, will decide how to spend $53 million in federal gas tax money. This tax is paid by Oregon motorists, laundered through a bureaucracy back in Washington, D.C., then returned to Oregon as “flexible funds” to be spent on any transportation project Metro approves. Although motorists paid the taxes, they will receive almost no benefits.

JPACT is what’s known as a “pork-barrel” committee. The political appointees who serve on the committee use the process to fund their pet projects, and the majority of members oppose road construction. Therefore, you will soon learn about the following boondoggles and corporate welfare expenditures such as:

  • $4 million for Metro’s “Transportation Demand Management” program, a propaganda campaign designed to get people out of their cars.
  • $4.5 million for Metro’s “Transit Oriented Development” program, which subsidizes high-density projects near light rail, projects that have been rejected by private lenders.
  • $3.45 million for the “Gresham Civic Station,” a densification project near light rail that promises to attract 1,400 new transit customers — a cost of $2,464 per rider.

Yes, there are a few projects that might actually improve roads. However, the vast majority of funds will be wasted on projects that will do nothing to enhance mobility.

The region desperately needs more road capacity; the last new interstate highway was opened some 24 years ago. But Metro councilors won’t be solving the problem. They’d rather spend tax dollars to make congestion worse.

John A. Charles, Jr. is president and CEO at Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon based think tank.

© 2006, Cascade Policy Institute. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and Cascade Policy Institute are cited. Contact Cascade at (503) 242-0900 to arrange print or broadcast interviews on this topic. For more topics visit the QuickPoint! archive.

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