It's from Destination: Freedom, several years ago, when there was still hope that Wisconsin and Ohio would get expanded rail service to supplement that emerging in Illinois.  It's worth pondering, though, as those states decide to spend less public money on transportation, and a greater share of the remaining dollars on the highways.  It's something worth pondering the next time a candidate for public office grouses about "crumbling infrastructure."
The real budget buster for America over the past five decades has been a monolithic reliance on automobiles, trucks and highways for nearly all ground transportation, with many hundreds of billions of dollars spent far beyond the revenues collected from the lowest vehicle fuel taxes and licensing fees in the western world. When one considers that the USA has fought at least one, and perhaps two wars in the past two decades to ensure a continued supply of foreign oil to America’s thirsty fleet of several hundred million cars and trucks, then the costs of subsidizing automobiles and highways runs easily into the trillion dollar range in just 20 years. One would think that a trillion dollar tax payer subsidy for anything would become the immediate target of attack by the TEA Party and its allies in the New Right. But for some reason I am not hearing much out of either group in recent weeks and months about this astonishing tax dollar give-away.

The New Right such as John Kasich and Scott Walker expect rail transit to be government budget neutral, while the nation’s highway road network continue to stay on their half-century long tax-payer subsidized free ride. That is fantasy. As long as the road and highway network get multiple billions of direct tax subsidies every year, then an alternative transportation system such as rail will also require similar tax subsidies to be viable. But these gentlemen offer no alternative, just the same old failed transportation policy the USA has followed for the last several decades.

The alternative would be for these gentlemen to back up their words with actions, and force the highway network to get off of its generous tax handouts. Of course that would mean charging highways tolls nationwide and tripling the current vehicle fuel taxes in order to begin the end of tax-payer subsidized highways.
The only reform anywhere near satisfying those criteria is the recent Illinois Tollway increase in tolls paid by truckers. "On January 1, 2015, truck/trailer toll rates will increase to help rebuild, improve and expand the agency's 286-mile system of toll roads to make travel easier and more efficient." That's just the usual spin we expect from government agencies or from corporations.  What the higher tolls have done is induced even more truck traffic on the state and federal highways, for which there is less money to deal with the wear and tear.

We will recognize a politician serious about fixing "crumbling infrastructure" in a politician who goes on record in favor of special movement permits for any trailer longer than 28 feet.

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