U.S. Senators Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) and John McCain (R-AZ) released a report today on transportation spending entitled, "Out of Gas: Congress Raids the Highway Trust Fund for Pet Projects While Bridges and Roads Crumble." (Direct link to report) The report includes newly published GAO analysis the two Senators requested on how Congress is spending Highway Trust Fund receipts.
"Congress is about to pass another bailout of the highway trust fund because we have refused to make wise choices about transportation spending. As the GAO report demonstrates, Congress has wasted billions of dollars on low-priority projects like bike paths while bridges are in disrepair. In today's economy, it's inexcusable to continue business as usual when Congress could be supporting state priorities that would save lives, save taxpayer funds, create jobs and truly stimulate the economy," Dr. Coburn said.
"Over the years, the number of highway bill earmarks has exploded," said Senator John McCain. "GAO's analysis only confirms that Congress is frivolously spending the Highway Trust Fund for pet projects like walkways and bicycle paths, at the expense of our nation's roads and bridges. Now Congress wants to bail out the Trust Fund by saddling future generations with even more debt. Doing so is irresponsible."
According to the Senators' report, GAO auditors found that over the last five years, $78 billion in Highway Trust Fund receipts have been used for "purposes other than construction and maintenance of highways and bridges" such as bike paths, pedestrian walkways and facilities, "scenic beautification" and landscaping projects, and road-kill prevention projects. Among the items noted in the reports:
More than $2 billion has been obligated for 5,547 bike paths and pedestrian walkways, including $878,000 for a pedestrian and bicycle bridge for a Minnesota town of 847. An additional $2 million in stimulus funds will pay for a bike lane along a deteriorating road in Pennsylvania, where exasperated local officials say the road is so bad they may be forced to drive on the bike path instead.
63 ferry projects and ferry terminal facilities accounted for $121 million, including $1.6 million for a ferry boat program in Oklahoma that features Saturday morning cartoon cruises with Bugs Bunny and Wile E. Coyote on the ferry's flat screen T.V.
Another $850 million has been obligated for 2,772 "scenic beautification" and landscaping projects around the country.
In their report, Senators Coburn and McCain recommend that Congress transfer unused stimulus monies to replenish the Trust Fund and implement a moratorium on all transportation-related earmarks for the remainder of the 111th Congress.