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Public-private partnerships, like those Peters proposes, offer the best hope of prioritizing the long wish-lists of infrastructure projects. The private sector will gravitate to projects that offer steady revenue streams and the best chance for profit: new toll roads that relieve congestion in urban areas or highly traveled bridges in need of repair, for example. On the other hand, projects centered around pretty ribbon-cutting ceremonies or meant to deliver pork to congressional districts will be found wanting by investors.
Increasing private sector involvement can close the funding gap, reduce the ‘need' for stimulus spending and make certain the most-needed transportation projects - the ones that will deliver the most bang for our bucks - rise to the top.
The way we fund our roads is failing and out of date. Simply pouring billions more into building roads the old fashioned way won't fix it. A modern transportation network designed to meet today's diverse travel needs would help the economy grow. Unfortunately for taxpayers simply handing a big stimulus check to governors won't deliver that network.
Sam Staley is director of urban policy and Adrian Moore is vice president of research at Reason Foundation. They are co-authors of Mobility First: A New Vision for Transportation in a Globally Competitive 21st Century (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008).