After reading and rereading Congressman Oberstar's rant, I am still unconvinced that we need neither a 5-cent per gallon gas tax increase nor a Bridge Trust Fund.
The Congressman is right, insofar as the fact we are paying 18.4 cents per gallon fuel tax currently. He is wrong in his insinuation that transit and bike paths should come out of that tax. most American's I talk to don't have a problem with paying their "fair share" of the gas tax. The problem they have is the wasteful spending in Congress that dedicates money that drivers are paying and putting it to thing that have no benefit for them.
If the Congressman wants a tax to pay for light rail transit or bicycle paths, that's fine. As long as the funds come from transit users or bicyclists.
I have spent countless hours on the New York City subway and the Washington, D.C. metro over the years and admire the way they handle their mass transit system. I've also paid my way through the fares that they charge. As a young Staff Sergeant stationed at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland in the late 1990s, I've also utilized the Maryland Area Rail Commuter (MARC), and admire the way they handle the needs of the consumer.
However, MARC, NYC and DC spent years analyzing population growth patterns and it fits their geographical area much better than the Twin Cities. The Hiawatha light rail line from the Mall of America to Downtown Minneapolis is quite convoluted. It doesn't pay for itself, despite claims of 'high ridership,' there are no controlled turnstyles to ensure that riders have actually paid to get on (I'd like to know what the yearly loss is from the 'transit theives' who don't pay for the service but utilize it anyway), and they still haven't straightened out the frequency for the lights on Hiawatha Avenue. I've driven Hiawatha many a day with few cars in front or behind me, only to have the lights turn red because a train is coming. As soon as that train passes, another one comes and trips the light a block later. An that isn't counting the time I tried to get onto Hiawatha after a storm knocked out the power to the switches. The lights were on, the gate arms were down and not a train in sight.
As for bike paths, why is it that the transit nuts were the same people who advocated taking the old rails from abandoned train lines and turned them into the bike paths. Couldn't they have been used for commuter rail and saved the taxpayers money?
If Oberstar wants funding for bike paths, let him tax the bicyclists. If he wants funding for mass transit, let him tax the end user. If he wants to rebuild bridges, then dedicate the current funding from the 18.4 cent/gallon gas tax to roads and bridges, since automobile users are the ones who use the roads and bridges anyway. We don't need a trust fund to handle this - we just need to make sure the current tax is used for the intended purposes and not siphoned away with more wasteful spending only to put another I.O.U. in it's place.