For a hundred years, cities and towns throughout America widened and paved streets so people could quickly and safely get to where they wanted to go. During the 1950’s Atlantic City set up two lanes of traffic in each direction on Atlantic and Pacific Avenues, two of its longest and busiest streets. It did this by removing trolley tracks and posts from Atlantic Avenue and widening Pacific Avenue.
Above Image: Atlantic Avenue in quiet residential part of Margate, New Jersey in afternoon of a typical off-season weekday when this summer resort town is mostly empty. With “Road Diet”, one slow car on main road in and out of town instantly creates a traffic jam.
Now they are doing the opposite. Last week, Atlantic City began narrowing Atlantic Avenue to allow only one lane in each direction. The downbeach towns of Margate and Longport did that two years ago. Nearby Ocean City narrowed most of West Avenue, its main street from four lanes to two lanes. All this was required by state and federal officials who call this a “road diet”.
Most visitors and people who live, work and vacation here think this is nuts. So do most elected officials in these towns. Yet they all did it anyway. They did not want to raise local taxes to pave their streets, and applied for massive federal and state funding instead. State and federal highway officials made these “road diets” requirements for getting those funds.
These “road diets” are choking liberty and prosperity as well as traffic. They are the symptoms of these three diseases:
- Federal, state and local governments in America cannot afford to build or fix anything without massive tax hikes, borrowing, or unsustainable financial gimmicks.
- Our federal and New Jersey state constitutions are all but dead. Our federal government routinely violates the U.S. Constitution by borrowing and taxing to pay for strictly local projects with no national purpose. Our state government routinely violates its state constitution by borrowing money without voter approval.
- Both federal and New Jersey state government officials are using their full powers to reduce the standard of living for most Americans by limiting the use of coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear power
Since the 1930s, political corruption and countless federal and state laws have raised the costs of all repairs and constructions to unsustainable levels. “Prevailing Wage” laws require much higher salaries and benefits for government projects than private ones. They also require countless work rules that slow down work and raise costs. Various “set aside” laws require contracts to hire and promote workers based on race, sex and other factors not connected to performance. Various “safety” and “environmental” laws also slow down projects and raise costs while doing little nothing to increase safety or protect the environment.
When these high costs for repairs and construction caused massive tax and toll hikes, state and local politicians looked for and found various financial gimmicks to avoid them. They borrowed money, and created “independent” authorities like the NJ Transportation Trust Fund Authority to borrow money. This was all in violation of the New Jersey State constitution which requires voter approval of all state borrowing. As a result, the NJ Transportation Trust Fund Authority now raises gas taxes and tolls almost every year just to pay back loans for past projects.
State and federal officials also persuaded our United States House and Senate members of Congress to spend federal funds on their state and local projects. Article I Section 8 of our U.S. Constitution was specifically written to limit spending by our national government to national purposes that could not be done by state and local governments. However, most state and local officials today, as well as most voters, insist that the federal government routinely borrow and spend money state and local projects that have no national purpose whatsoever. That is why the United States Federal government is now $33 trillion in debt, not counting the money it owes for future Social Security, Medicare, and military and government pension payments.
Now costs for all government repairs and construction are so high that few towns can raise enough money from property taxes to pave their streets. As a result, they now depend on grants from the federal government given to the states. Right now, Democratic President Biden and New Jersey Governor Murphy both claim that our use of coal, oil and natural gas is causing worldwide “climate change”. To stop it, they are using the full power of government to reduce our standard of living every way they can. One way is to make it too expensive, difficult, and inconvenient to live in suburbs and use automobiles. The purpose of these “road diets” is to slowly discourage all but the very rich from living in suburbs and using cares to commute to and from work or drive to vacation destinations.
It is not enough to simply oppose these “road diets”. They are simply symptoms of three serious diseases. We must also understand the underlying causes of those diseases and address them.
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