Campaign Contributions Greasing the Wheels for New Highway Construction?

Media Releases

Despite Crumbling Infrastructure, in 2008 Only About 10 Percent of Transportation Earmark Dollars Went to Repairs

Georgia PIRG Education Fund

ATLANTA, Nov. 12 – The nation has 73,000 crumbling bridges, but year after year startlingly few federal transportation dollars go to fixing them.

In 2008, for example, just a few months after the tragic Minneapolis bridge collapse which killed 13 and sparked alarm and outrage across the country, Congress directed only 74 of the 704 highway projects earmarked in the transportation appropriations bill to repair or maintain a bridge, tunnel, or overpass.

Only about ten percent of the projects, and about ten percent of the funding, focused on fixing the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. Most of the $570 million went for new highways and other new construction.

Millions of dollars also flowed in another direction… from highway construction companies and the trade associations that represent them to the campaign coffers of elected officials in Atlanta and Washington, D.C.

Were those dollars “greasing the wheels” in our state and federal capitols?

Georgia PIRG’s new Greasing the Wheels: the Crossroads of Campaign Money and Transportation Policy looks at the 2008 transportation appropriations bill using data never before available, laying out the details of Congress’ earmark requests. The report, released on Thursday, also examines the campaign contributions from highway construction interests both here in Georgia and nationally.

“In our current political system, elected officials must raise huge sums of campaign contributions from major donors to win reelection,” said Georgia PIRG Advocate Jenna Sasanfar.

“In part because of this, we believe that transportation spending is skewed toward road-widening and new highway projects favored by developers, road builders and the other interests who make those contributions,” she added.

“We need to clean up the campaign finance system so that lawmakers can focus on the needs of the public rather than their major donors, she concluded.

Greasing the Wheels: the Crossroads of Campaign Money and Transportation Policy report is available on the website www.georgiapirg.org.