Paul Jacob

Here’s the new definition of “highway robbery”: When government robs us of our highways.

Today’s highway robbers are metropolitan planners, and they may be in charge of the roads in your city or state.

They are certainly in charge in Portland, Oregon.

The Federal Highway Administration recently reprimanded Oregon’s Metro — the bigger-than-countywide government surrounding Portland — for goofy planning.

According to the federal agency, “It is difficult to find the transportation focus in this opening chapter of [Metro’s] Regional Transportation Plan.” Instead, the plan focuses on bike trails, light rail, and expensive skyline transport. “The plan should acknowledge that automobiles are the preferred mode of transport by the citizens of Portland. . . . They vote with their cars every day."

My goodness, the federal government just actually acknowledged simple reality. It sure would be nice if Metro planners followed suit.

But that’s not likely. In Portland, as elsewhere, city planners are now trying to rebuild society according to a blueprint that doesn’t include cars.

And they are in control of our highways!

Money Talks . . . and Never Shuts Up
As anyone who has been involved in local politics knows, roads are big business.

In the old days politicians were just happy to accommodate citizens’ transportation needs and line their pockets with kickbacks and other forms of corruption.

Now, though, in part because of the spread of the “Metro” model of transportation planning, roads aren’t even the half of it. And money chases money from agency to agency, contractor to the feds and back again in a mad dance that makes sense only if you love politics. And hate economy.

Under contention now? Oregon Metro’s goofy long-term plan. According to a fascinating little story in The Oregonian,

The plan is a blueprint that controls transportation spending in the region for 20 years. In order to receive funding, a project must be in the plan. Metro is developing an update of the plan, scheduled for completion in 2008.
In the past, because of the complex politics of the three-county metro area, the plan has included many more projects than the region can afford. The current plan includes $10 billion worth of projects, about $6 billion over the available money.

So of course, the planners go a-begging to the federal government.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.