Sunday, January 27, 2008

Improving Infrastructure - The Huckabee Plan

The following is a policy paper from Mike Huckabee about his plan to strengthen our nation's infrastructure. I think this is a great plan. It shows that yet again Mike Huckabee is the only candidate from the GOP that has new fresh ideas on how to make our country run better. With Obama winning South Carolina last night the GOP needs to bring forward a nominee that has these ideas and can present them in a positive manner. I think Mike Huckabee can do that.

The Huckabee Plan:
Four Guiding Principles for
Strengthening America's Infrastructure


If we're going to spend $150 billion, I'd like to suggest that maybe we add two lanes of highway from Bangor all the way to Miami on I-95. A third of the United States population lives within 100 miles of that.

This nation's infrastructure is falling apart. And if we built those lanes of highways -- with American labor, American steel, American concrete - I believe it would do more to stimulate the economy.

And the reason I say that is because when we were going through a recession in my state, we were in the middle of a billion-dollar highway construction program that brought about 40,000 jobs and brought a billion dollars of capital into the economy.

That's a long-term stimulus package that I think would have more impact on the American long-term future. And it would keep social capital from being wasted, fuel wasted. A lot of people in Florida sit around in traffic every day, never getting to their kids' dance recitals or soccer games because they're stuck in traffic, and we've done nothing about it.
--Governor Mike Huckabee
Florida Atlantic University Debate
January 24, 2008

My four guiding principles can be summed up simply: Stimulus, Safety, Security, and Sustainability.

When I took office as Governor of Arkansas in 1996, I faced a highway system which was among the worst in the country. The road conditions were harming our economy and had reached the point of becoming an actual safety risk. With overwhelming voter approval, we launched a highway bonds project that generated a billion dollars of highway construction, created some 40,000 new jobs, and created new movement for our economy. Our roads were then called the "most improved" according to Overdrive magazine. We need to do the same for this country.

Stimulus
- President Bush and Congress have come together to create a short-term economic stimulus package, which I commend and support as a valuable first step.

- However, we must also look to the next century, not just to the next few quarters.

- So we must also look at longer-term ways to grow local economies and our national economy by: first, easing congestion by emphasizing road expansion and mass-transit investment; second, funding strategic capital improvement projects to make more localities attractive to new businesses and workers; and third, rebuilding the infrastructure of our "tools for trade" such as improvements to and expansions of our seaports and airports.

- This past fall, Texas A&M released a report on the price of congestion in time and money-we now spend 4.2 billion hours each year in our cars, and spend an extra 38 hours per urban driver. That's nearly the length of a workweek-time taken away from our families, missing kids' soccer games, dance recitals, and school plays. According to the Texas A&M study, we waste 2.9 billion gallons of gasoline during this lost time; the total cost to our economy is $78 billion every year.

- In Florida, the Sunshine State is currently working on a project on I-75 in Collier and Lee counties to add an additional lane in each direction. The cost of that project is $430 million. Now not only will that construction mean the creation of over 20,000 jobs, it also means that Florida will be reducing congestion, reducing wasted productivity and gasoline, reducing wear on your vehicles, and speeding up the state economy.

- Infrastructure reform enhances productivity and eliminates waste, but it also generates new jobs and revenue. The U.S. Department of Transportation tells us that every $1 billion invested in federal highway and transit infrastructure results in the creation of some 47,500 jobs, and every $1 spent on infrastructure investment results in an estimated $5.70 in economy activity. Now that is a stimulus package.

- Florida's economic engine rests on moving people and freight. It has the longest coastline in the continental U.S. and many vital ports. A strong highway system is integral to moving tourists through the state in a timely manner and taking freight across the country.

- There is an immediate need to expand the ports of Miami, Tampa, and Jacksonville, which are enormous economic engines not only for Florida but for the entire country. Yet there are challenges ahead:

  • Annual operating security costs at the Port of Miami almost quadrupled from 2001 to 2006, from about $4 to $16 million.
  • The current expansion of the Panama Canal will allow for much larger tankers to come through Florida. To harness these benefits, we must enlarge the capacities of the Port of Miami, the Port of Tampa, and the Port of Jacksonville.
  • The Port of Jacksonville is currently working on becoming a deepwater port and expanding to double its cargo capacity. The Port will need road/rail improvement to transport goods across the state and country.
  • Miami has requested $13 million to complete dredging of the Miami River this year or next. This would complete an $86 million dredging project started in 2004 and run by the Army Corps of Engineers. Over the next 20 years, this should generate $100 million in business from ships, letting them use the river at both high and low tides. The river had not been dredged since the 1930's.
  • The Miami Harbor has requested $2 million for engineering and design for dredging the harbor.
  • These are just some of the important projects that a Huckabee administration will seek to foster.

Safety

- Such infrastructure-based economic development is not just about giving our economy a shot in the arm-it is also about protecting and preserving what we have already developed. In decades past, our predecessors built canals, then railroads, and then the interstate highway system. And yet now we can't even keep these vital projects adequately maintained - our bridges are sometimes reinforced with wood, our pavements are crumbling. These are not just economic challenges; they are safety hazards.

- Our interstate highway system covers 47,000 miles. Before it was built, motorists could only drive 250 miles a day dawn-to-dark, but after it was built, drivers could cover twice that distance. There's enormous economic potential in dramatically improving transportation productivity.

- The American Society of Civil Engineers gave our infrastructure a "D" and said that we will need $1.6 trillion in the next five years, and that's not even including our national security needs. We need this amount just to deal with our "congested highways, overflowing sewers, and corroded bridges". Poor roads cost Americans $54 billion each year in repairs and operating costs - an average of $275 for each driver.

- All of our infrastructure is suffering from a lack of maintenance and expansion - we have seen this in the collapse of the Minneapolis bridge on August 1, 2007, the steam pipe explosion in New York City on July 18, 2007, and a year of frustration with air travel, with almost 30% of flights delayed. Antiquated infrastructure and overcrowded airports are inherently dangerous.
" In 2006, 73,764 American bridges were rated "structurally deficient" by the U.S. Department of Transportation. We need to take a hard look at our bridges and make sure they are safe and secure.

- Bridges and air travel are an issue throughout Florida:

  • Miami has requested federal funding to replace the Northwest 17th Ave. Bridge and 12 Venetian causeway bridges linking Miami and Miami Beach. This is the sort of infrastructure overhaul we need.
  • The Kendall-Tamiami Executive Airport in Miami has requested funds to extend two runways.
  • Orlando International Airport, the busiest airport in Florida, will soon start a $400 million construction project to sustain its main terminal.
  • The highway interchange around Tampa International Airport is currently being expanded.
  • Around Pensacola and Tallahassee, Interstate 10 improvements now underway will significantly enhance transportation across the Panhandle.

- We must do a better job of setting priorities. Much of our federal funding is still apportioned to the states under mechanisms established 50 years ago when we created the interstates. As President, I will make sure that our prioritization system responds adequately to our most urgent needs.

- We need an Asset Management System. As President, I will instruct my Secretary of Transportation to develop a comprehensive database that assesses the existing condition of infrastructure and then provides options for the funding - including creative private-sector options - to maintain each asset in the condition it needs to be. This makes funding decisions data-driven, rather than political, so that we can remove the excuse for Congressional earmarks.

Security

- Moreover, allowing these weaknesses to continue provides openings for the terrorists to exploit. I will address the many security issues still unresolved after 9/11, such as the security of our ports and our chemical plants.

- For all our effort, we still have far to go in ensuring that our planes are secure and our passengers not overly inconvenienced. DHS' Transportation Security Lab is researching new technologies to update and secure our air travel.

- For Miami, this includes a $20 million request for changes made in the terminal to install a baggage explosives detection system.

- In Orlando, the airport is already taking advantage of new technologies such as the "Clear" card, a voluntary ID system, which will be available in Orlando International Airport starting this June.

- If states choose even tougher standards to protect their people, I will respect their authority and not allow the federal government to pre-empt those standards. When New Jersey passed standards for its chemical plants, lobbyists for the chemical companies tried to get Congress to pass weak federal legislation for these plants and to pre-empt New Jersey from enforcing its stricter standards. I will always fight for you, not the lobbyists.

-I will reassess, tighten, and strengthen the focus and mission of the Department of Homeland Security. When the Department was formed, it brought together 180,000 people from 22 agencies, combining tasks as diverse and unrelated as the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service from the Agriculture Department to the Nuclear Incident Response Team from the Department of Energy. Its size and structure have proven to be unwieldy and inefficient. We must reform and restructure DHS so that it is even more effective at identifying threats and foiling attacks.

- For example, at the Port of Miami, divers search for contraband at the Coast Guard's request, but since DHS is not reimbursing them, the Miami Dade Police Department is picking up that tab. DHS should provide the funding to conduct hull searches as ships enter the port.

- I also support Miami's request for DHS to open a regional office in Miami-Dade County. This will make sure that Florida's largest metropolitan area has the resources to work with state and federal officials in case of a terror attack or other emergency.

- We need better radiation detection devices to screen cargo in our ports. The current generation has technology limitations. I support DHS' pilot program called SETCP (Southeast Transportation Corridor Pilot), which Florida participates in, for using mobile radiation detection devices.

- Miami has also requested $6 million to improve communications between police and firefighters. This sort of interoperability is key to our ability to respond to a national disaster or terrorist attack.

- When Congress put FEMA in the Department of Homeland Security, they moved its director too far down the food chain. I will restore FEMA to cabinet status, so that the Director reports directly to me. My FEMA director will have sterling credentials, leadership and management skills, including extensive, hands-on experience in disaster response.

- During the massive emergency of Hurricane Katrina, when local, state, and federal governments were in melt-down, I stepped forward and directed the rescue and relief of 75,000 victims. Our success amidst so much failure was one of the reasons Time magazine named me one of America's five best governors.

- A sound infrastructure is also the key to developing our energy security, and our energy independence. As President, I will work to make sure that we have a comprehensive and balanced approach to the enormous challenge of strengthening America's energy independence from unstable and sometimes hostile foreign governments. If we could put a man on the moon four decades ago, we can accomplish this mission in the coming decade.

Sustainability

- I have always been a conservationist. Stewardship of the air and land and soil is very important to me. I will follow the principle I learned from the Boy Scouts: Always leave the land better than when you found it. I am proud of my record in Arkansas, building constructive consensus on key issues. I look forward to bringing the same leadership to America.

- We need to move toward long-term solutions, bringing a comprehensive vision, combining economic development and environmental protection. We can have both.

- We must link land use and transportation planning. It is folly, for example, to provide rail service to places that don't have the density to make it work.

- We keeping building schools and post offices outside of town centers, so that everyone has to drive. Our children don't walk to school or to the playground anymore, which is not only a transportation issue, but causes childhood obesity as well. So transportation becomes a health issue, a lifestyle issue, which shapes the future of our children and our county. We need to trim the fat and produce an efficient, sustainable plan for the future.

- We must also consider sustainability relating to water, of particular importance to Floridians.

  • South Miami-Dade has a request for a $6.25 million water pipeline.
  • Biscayne Bay has made a $500,000 request for a study of water quality.

- Properly used, public transportation can reduce congestion and emissions, lower our demand for oil, and improve accessibility.

  • Miami has requested funding for 12 new Metromover vehicles; $6 million for new buses and routes, $5 million for transit security, $8 million for pedestrian overpasses.

- We should use the new technology and markets available to us to encourage the next generation of sustainable infrastructure. The US Green Building Council has created the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating Systems, which cover everything from homes and offices to schools and hospitals, even neighborhood development. LEED is the nationally and internationally accepted benchmark for designing, building, and running green structures. We should consider offering personal and corporate tax benefits for LEED Certified buildings.

Conclusion

- These improvements are vital to our economic prosperity, but they also define our quality of life. We've spent decades ignoring the issue, and we no longer have a national transportation or infrastructure vision like the one that built the interstate highway system in the 1950's or sent us to the moon in the 1960's. The Huckabee administration would restore and act on that national vision.

2 comments:

Daniel said...

The state with the longest coastline is Alaska, not Florida.

Dan said...

Maine's coastline is significantly longer.

 

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