I had the opportunity to tag along with members of the real press as we covered Sen. Patty Murray, Mayor Greg Nickels and other local dignitaries on the first semi-public test run of Sound Transit’s Link Light Rail, scheduled to start service in July 2009. Most of the time I hung out in the back of the train with the other bloggers, but when Sen. Murray walked by I just had to snag her for a couple questions about our current economic crisis.
Specifically, I asked her if there was any appetite in Congress to invest in fiscal stimulus for projects like the one we were riding on, and she said that there have been discussions about a package that would invest in infrastructure, particularly transportation, because it puts people to work immediately, but that a recent bill was blocked by the Republicans. (All the more reason to send more and better Democrats to Congress.)
So I guess the answer was “yes,” but she didn’t sound too confident. Near the end of the interview I asked whether there might be some federal money forthcoming to help the states with their ballooning budget deficits and she said that they were already getting such requests, but “I think everybody recognizes that this is a time when everybody is going to have to cut back.”
Huh. By most accounts our nation now has several trillion dollars worth of critical public infrastructure—roads, bridges, transit, water, sewer, etc.—that needs to be repaired, replaced or expanded over the next two decades, much of it built as public works projects during the Great Depression. As our economy worsens and our banking industry collapses, it may very well be left up to the federal government once again to keep America working.