The Congestion Caucus

Posted on November 9, 2015 in: Traffic Congestion

The following is excerpted from an op-ed piece in today’s Washington Post by Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation and a former chairman of the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission.  In the article, Mr Atkinson defines the two sides of the infrastructure debate as the “congestion caucus” and the “liberty caucus.”  The following are excerpts of his description of the “congestion caucus.”  (emphasis added)

(The congestion caucus) claims to be infrastructure supporters, but it supports only what it deems the right kinds of infrastructure. Overwhelmingly urban and liberal, this group’s goal is not mobility or even infrastructure. It’s social engineering: getting people out of their soulless single-family suburban homes and into vibrant multiethnic communities; having them ditch their environment-destroying SUVs in favor of sustainable light rail; and supporting the urban disadvantaged instead of a privileged suburban class…

“For the congestion caucus, expanding highways to reduce traffic jams is wrong, because it means more single-family homes, more SUVs and more suburbanization. This neatly summarizes why they oppose increased infrastructure funding for road expansion. As one presidential appointee to the Transportation Department told me when I asked why the Obama administration does not support a gas tax increase, too much of the Highway Trust Fund goes to, well, roads.

“The congestion caucus has been hammering home its message at every turn: Federal support for expanding roads actually makes congestion worse. Nonsensical though this notion is, it is nonetheless now widely believed. To be sure, better urban planning and an increased role for non-auto alternatives will have to be a part of the future transportation landscape. But if this comes at the expense of road expansion, the 85 percent of Americans who commute to work by car, and who waste nearly 7 billion hours yearly stuck in traffic, will suffer.”

Read the entire column here.