Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Turtle Tunnels

Wait, what? You mean to tell me R congressfolk have been lying to us?

WASHINGTON (AP) — It's an outrageous tale: The federal government spends one out of every $10 in transportation aid on wasteful projects such as refurbishing a giant roadside coffee pot and constructing turtle tunnels.

That's what Republican lawmakers have said repeatedly in recent weeks in the Senate, in public appearances and in news releases. They are trying to eliminate a requirement that states use a portion of their highway aid for "transportation enhancements," 12 categories of projects from bike and walking paths to scenic overlooks and landscaping.

But it's not exactly true.

To make their case, lawmakers have exaggerated and misrepresented some projects that have received aid.

Well, knock me over with a bridge to nowhere.

First on the list: the Lincoln Highway 200-Mile Roadside Museum in south-central Pennsylvania. It was described as receiving $300,000 in 2004 for signs, murals, colorful vintage gas pumps painted by local artists and refurbishing of a former roadside snack stand from 1927 that's shaped like a giant coffee pot.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was apparently working from Coburn's list two weeks ago when he offered an amendment to narrow the types of projects eligible for enhancement funds....

But no transportation aid was spent on the coffee pot's $100,000 restoration, said Olga Herbert, executive director of the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor. The money was raised entirely from preservation and civic organizations and local supporters....

...."Don't tell the people of Kentucky they need to finance every turtle tunnel and solar panel company on some bureaucrat's wish list in order to get their bridges fixed," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said last month in a speech decrying President Barack Obama's request for $50 billion for highways, bridges and airport runways.


While turtle deaths prompted the project, the culverts are being used by many other species, including beavers, otters, alligators and snakes. They make driving safer for motorists who were swerving to avoid turtles and alligators...

The project used economic stimulus funds rather than regularly budgeted transportation money. Coburn's list, provided to reporters and posted on his Senate website, said Florida plans to spend $3.4 million on the project, but it will require $6 million more to finish "and it was unclear how long it will take to get the project built."

Actually, the project was finished in September 2010 and came in under budget at $3 million, according to the Transportation Department.

In the article, it's a long list. I guess none of it earthshaking in its own right, but it's revelatory (assuming there are people to whom it isn't as obvious as a dead turtle) of the facility with which these guys lie whenever their lips move, while assuming no one will notice. Or care. In that, they're right on the money.

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