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Disappearmarks: How highway projects get left behind


Pennsylvania's Ambridge-Aliquippa Bridge.
(Photo courtesy of Leon Reed.)

In 1991 the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) received a $14.6 million federal earmark to reconstruct a highway interchange in downtown Mobile. After spending a portion of the funds on feasibility studies, engineers found that the project would require a great deal of additional federal and state money to complete. What’s more, their studies showed the proposed improvements would only increase highway speeds by an average of five miles per hour.

So they halted the project. And nineteen years later, $10.6 million of that original earmark remains unused ...

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Government Data and the Case for Not Running Me Over


Over the weekend I was clearing out my RSS, and was pleasantly surprised to find Sunlight's work in an unexpected place. TheWashCycle is my favorite DC bike blog, and its author has started a series of posts designed to address arguments that are commonly faced by cycling advocates. One of those is that cyclists don't pay for roads — that the gas tax pays for them — and consequently folks on bikes aren't entitled to the use of roads, or are less entitled to space on the road than motorists, or shouldn't have a say in how roads are built.

As it turns out, the assumption that cyclists don't pay for roads is wrong. The WashCycle post linked to some work that we did for Pew's Subsidyscope project, which shows that gas taxes are paying for a decreasing share of our roads. In 2007 taxes and fees related to auto use covered only half the bill. The shortfall is made up by general revenues and debt — and though the specifics of the story play out differently from state to state it's safe to say that cyclists pay taxes that help build roads.

Share of Highway Funds by Source

I mention all this not simply to highlight some pro-cyclist propaganda — though of course, as a daily bike commuter, I'm glad to do that, too — but rather to point this out as an example of what open government data can accomplish.

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CFC (Combined Federal Campaign) Today 59063

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