Candidates all over the road on issues

If you haven’t heard — or are really good at using your remote control to flip off those TV political ads — the country will elect a new president Tuesday.

Either Barack Obama or John McCain will have a truckload of issues to deal with, but the one I am most concerned with (at least for this space) is transportation.

Here’s a breakdown on where the candidates stand when it comes to our highways and byways. And just to be clear, this is by no means an endorsement of either candidate.

McCain, the GOP’s nominee, doesn’t have a specific area on his Web site ( that deals with transportation issues.

Still, voters can get a sense of where he stands by remarks he has made during his campaign.

During a debate in August 2007, McCain vilified the wasteful spending often seen in congressional transportation bills.

"We passed a $50 billion transportation bill that had $2 billion in pork barrel earmarked projects: $233 million for a bridge to nowhere in Alaska, to an island with 50 people on it. Not one dime in those pork barrel projects was for inspection or repair of bridges," McCain said, according to

McCain has often said if elected he wants line-item veto power so he can veto that type of spending.

In September 2007, while debating the 2008 transportation appropriations bill in the Senate, McCain said, "Instead of raising the gas taxes, as some members of Congress have suggested, for the millions of Americans who are already paying more for gas than ever before, the federal and state governments must prioritize transportation spending to focus on projects with the most need," according to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association.

McCain recently told VIA, a travel magazine for AAA members, that one of his priorities will be "renewed attention to bridge safety."

When asked about transportation funding, McCain said, "I have fought for more equitable disposition of Highway Trust Fund dollars (money collected from the federal fuel tax). I believe that a higher share of the taxes collected at the gas pump should go back to the state where those taxes were paid."

Obama, the Democratic presidential candidate, has laid out his transportation platform on his Web site (, although it is not listed under his major issues headings. You’ll have to look under "additional issues."

Obama’s policy paper indicates he wants to tackle everything from repairing the nation’s transportation infrastructure to improving domestic freight rail.

Here are some details:

• Obama wants to upgrade the national infrastructure. "Too many of our nation’s railways, highways, bridges, airports, and neighborhood streets are slowly decaying due to lack of investment and strategic long term planning."

• He wants to create a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank on top of existing federal transportation investments. "The Bank will receive an infusion of federal money, $60 billion over 10 years, to provide financing to transportation infrastructure projects across the nation." Obama believes this investment will lead to the creation of 2 million new jobs and about $35 billion in new economic activity each year.

• He supports development of high-speed rail across the United States as well as strengthening thinly stretched domestic rail freight capacity.

• Obama plans to work with state and local governments to create new public transportation systems and modernize aging public transportation structures.

• Obama wants local metropolitan planning organizations to create policies that push for "greater bicycle and pedestrian usage of roads and sidewalks." And Obama wants to provide local governments with resources to address sprawl.

• Obama wants to require governors and local leaders in our metropolitan areas to make "energy conservation" a required part of planning, instead of just a consideration, when using federal transportation funds.

Personally, I was disappointed that McCain hasn’t taken the time to lay out a clear transportation plan. Instead, he’s indicated he wants to cut federal spending across the board, including transportation funding.

On the other hand, Obama seems to want to solve almost every imaginable transportation problem without saying where the money is going to come from to pay for it all.

Either way, the next president will likely have to deal with a budget shortfall in the Highway Transportation fund, unless we all start driving a lot more.

I should note there are some similarities between the two candidates. Both have said publicly they do not support raising the federal fuel tax. And both want to push automakers to create viable alternative fuel vehicles.

I hope this helps. And if you haven’t heard, there’s an election Tuesday. Don’t forget to vote.

If you have a question, tip or tirade, call the Road Warrior at 387-2904, or e-mail him at or Please include your phone number.


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