Reason Foundation publication features trendsetters who are reforming government

The Reason Foundation is heralding US Transportation Secretary Mary Peters and Texas Gov. Rick Perry as “Innovators in Action” for their work in developing fresh solutions to cope with our growing infrastructure and traffic problems. In Innovators in Action 2008, Ms. Peters and Gov. Perry author columns explaining their visions and policy prescriptions for the future of transportation funding and construction.

Secretary Peters writes: “The good news is that next year’s expiration of the current surface transportation law, SAFETEA-LU, opens an historic opportunity for the United States to move away from the failed government-centric transportation model’a model in which central planners try to determine what the market wants, levy taxes to try to meet that need and then manage design and construction.

“If we get the policy right when the new bill is written, it has the potential to be as far-reaching and visionary as the legislation President Eisenhower signed in 1956 giving birth to a national Interstate Highway system, which ultimately revolutionized the American economy and way of life.

“Modern technology and new approaches to financing make it possible to empower consumers’through the mechanism of the market’to set transportation priorities, instead of government planners and regulators.

”’ The first step is to refocus our surface transportation program on a clearly defined federal role. When the government tries to be all things to all people, it fails to be coherent and risks being nothing to anyone. The program Eisenhower created 50 years ago was well-defined and well-suited to its time. The goal was clear: build the Interstates and connect the country’and we did.

“Since that mission was accomplished more than a quarter of a century ago, our federal surface transportation program has lost its sense of direction. It has become a breeding ground for earmarks and burdened by a proliferation of special-interest programs, goals and requirements.”

In his Innovators in Action piece, Gov. Perry writes: “A decade ago, if I said there was a way to pay for all the roads Texas needed, if I had talked about a group of people who are eager to compete for the chance to spend their money to build our roads, many probably would have thought I’d lost my mind.

“But the fact of the matter is, many financial institutions are willing to pay for the roads we need but can’t afford, in exchange for the opportunity to recover their investment and make a profit over time. In fact, US Transportation Secretary Mary Peters recently estimated that roughly $400 billion in private money is available worldwide for public infrastructure projects. It would be foolish for Texas to ignore such an opportunity.

“I am convinced that private dollars, administered through private-public partnerships, are a part of the answer to our transportation infrastructure challenge. Such innovation can sometimes frighten those accustomed to the old way of doing things, those comfortable with the status quo. But the simple truth is: when it comes to roads, Texas needs more of them. And we need them now. We need leaders willing to think outside the box, to be innovative in their solutions, to take a chance.’

“From crumbling roads to collapsing bridges to gridlocked roads, our nation’s infrastructure is in desperate need of repair and expansion,” said Leonard Gilroy, editor of Innovators in Action and director of government reform at Reason Foundation.‘“Governor Perry and Secretary Peters have led us down a new path, a path that shows there are better and more sustainable ways to fund, build and operate infrastructure. Their leadership offers hope that after years of falling behind, we can build a 21st century transportation system that protects