Commentary: US needs new balance in transportation

The team planning the incoming Obama administration's stimulus proposal has some very difficult choices to make when it comes to transportation: Should the money be spent largely on conventional projects, such as roads and highways, or should more of it be spent on "green" transportation such as transit and high-speed rail?

The problem for the planners is that the stimulus must be geared toward putting people to work as fast as possible. That, many believe, argues for the traditional sort of public works, such as highways.

In many cases, plans are already in place to replace crumbling roads, highways and bridges. By contrast, plans for urban transit systems and intercity high-speed rail are less firm, meaning it may take more time to actually start turning dirt and generating paychecks.

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