Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) released a report Oct. 16 that targets a number of transportation projects as part of $18 billion in "wasteful spending."
Coburn's "Wastebook 2012," the latest in a series of annual reports, features 100 projects and subsidies that the deficit hawk and anti-earmark crusader holds up as an example of Washington's out of touch priorities. Transportation is prevalent throughout the report.
"The Highway Trust Fund, which has been bailed out several times over the last five years, is a good example, as billions of dollars intended for transportation are wasted on questionable projects that do little to fix congestion or other transportation problems," it notes in the introduction. "Would the dollars spent on these transportation projects not have been better spent to fix some of the 22,158 deficient bridges plaguing our national highway system?"
Sixteen of the 100 listed projects and programs are transportation related. But while they dot the list, the transportation projects do not add up to that much money overall. The most expensive are $74 million for electric vehicle tax credits, $38.8 million for the Alaska Railroad, and $35.6 million for a streetcar trolley in St. Louis.
The Wastebook touches on a wide range of other transportation projects, from a scarcely used Oklahoma airport that collects federal subsidies, to the repair of a covered bridge in Ohio that is not even connected to a road, to a book vending machine in a California train station.
Though the report will prompt some floor speeches about government waste and inefficiency, it is not well-received by some who view the money as crucial to their state or district. And turning off the spigot of federal dollars can prove tough - just this year, the Alaska Railroad subsidies, drawn from federal mass transit dollars, were extended two more years in the new surface transportation law.