Yes, raise the gasoline tax!

Adapted from Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary,'' in

President Trump is a crook and a pathological liar,  and perhaps a traitor -- nobody's perfect! -- but even  a low-life like him can sometimes be right, although with his ADHD most of his  good ideas lack little more staying power than each of the endless series of lies, boasts and threats that comprise his Tweets.

In any case, kudos, at least for now, for his apparent openness to a very good idea. One is that he says he’d consider supporting raising the federal gasoline and diesel tax to help fund repair of America’s decayed transportation infrastructure. The federal tax on gasoline is 18.4 cents a gallon, and the diesel-fuel tax 24.4 a gallon. The tax was last increased in 1993! No wonder our roads and bridges are in such bad shape. Such an increase would not be enough to pay for all the needed work that has been put off for so long, and so further public-private spending will be needed.

The outlays should include a big increase in outlays for mass transit, which changing demographics and residential patterns require.

Amtrak, for one, needs much more work to meet the needs of its surging customer base.  We’ll get plenty of inconvenient reminders of the decrepitude of much of its infrastructure this summer as the system starts on much overdue work at New York’s Penn Station, the nation’s busiest train station. Travelers going through that catacomb are warned to expect weeks of disruption this summer.

The Northeast Corridor, by far Amtrak’s busiest  and most lucrative route, has a $28 billion backlog of needed repairs. And yet Congress keeps underfunding it, even as members from lightly populated states demand that the railroad continue to run  money-losing trains through their jurisdictions. In the current fiscal year, Amtrak only gets about $1.4 billion in subsidies from the Feds. (Still, that is 10 times the amount of money that the government is spending this year to pay for the Trump family’s protection and its vacation and business trips….)

Failure to address decay on the Northeast Corridor could seriously hurt the economy of the stretch between Boston and Washington – the single most important area in the United States, including both the nation’s financial capital (New York) and its political capital, as well as such technological, educational and medical centers as  Greater Boston and Philadelphia.

It’s not even a matter of raising the quality of the route to European or East Asian high-speed train standards. It’s a matter of maintaining, or slightly improving, the substandard service we have now.