By Angie Schmitt, Streets Blog
Licensed transportation engineers are supposed to abide by an ethical code of conduct that places the highest priority on public safety. But if you look outside at the closest street, you’ll probably see the result of engineering decisions that are antithetical to protecting people’s lives.
America has built out a transportation system that places people at much greater risk of death and serious injury than in peer countries around the world. In the last two years, the annual death toll has only escalated. The most vulnerable road users — people getting around without a car — account for a disproportionate share of the carnage.
We built a car culture, we built this myth that all the highways are paid by the users and we can’t use that money for anything else. The Highway Trust Fund — that’s a problem. I think in the 1950s when we didn’t have a highway system, I could see the logic. But it’s not the 1950s any more and we still have 1950s arguments and strategies.
We’re one of the only countries that has dedicated highway spending. In other countries, it’s just general funds, and you have public conversations about how that money is spent.
What I hear over and over [from other engineers] is we have no money to fix this. We don’t have money to maintain traffic signals, we don’t have money to build sidewalks. It’s a ridiculous statement on its face because we have billions of dollars but we just don’t spend it on those things.
[B' Spokes: I'll note we do NOT have a system for getting cheap or economical things built, our system is only for the most expensive of the expensive.]