For decades, public cash has gushed into building infrastructure designed to get us around in those little (or not-so-little) privatized pods. Indeed, the mobilization to create and maintain our road and highway network probably counts as our greatest public achievement of the last half-century.

Meanwhile, while the highway rode high, our rail-transportation network crashed. Attacked and defunded by politicians and rejected by the public, Amtrak lurches on, barely. It’s a a parody of a transportation system — unrecognizable as such by anyone who’s ever caught a train in Western Europe.

Things may be changing, though. High oil prices aren’t just causing Americans to cut back on driving; they’re also impeding efforts to maintain roads. Just as cars run on oil-derived gasoline, the road to auto nirvana is paved with oil-derived asphalt. From USA Today:

Fewer roads will be repaved this summer, thanks to soaring prices of oil-based asphalt. Some states, cities and counties say their road-repair budgets didn’t anticipate asphalt prices that are up 25.9 percent from a year ago, so they’re being forced to delay projects.

“We will do what patching we can,” one county official in South Dakota complained to USA Today, “but this will truly, truly be a devastating blow to the infrastructure.”

Meanwhile, the airline industry has entered a state of free fall; hammered by oil prices, the world’s airlines collectively expect to lose “at least” $2.3 billion in 2008, The New York Times reports.

U.S. truckers, too, are reeling, unable to make a living as diesel prices soar.

I’m not trying to get all peak-oil on y’all, but maybe it’s time to start reinvesting in rail? I’m just saying.