Transportation

Efforts around the country to revitalize downtowns and create economically vital and aesthetically pleasing communities, often centered on transit hubs, have created a greater need for a private-public entity that can manage these areas to ensure their long-term sustainability. While most states have laws on the books to enable these special districts, some experts say they are still too difficult to establish and that some of the decades-old laws may need to evolve to reflect the expanding mission of these districts and the changing nature of the communities they serve.

With the melting of the last remnants of snow from Winter Storm Jonas and another major winter storm set to impact millions of Americans in the southern Rockies, central plains and western Great Lakes this week, it seems as good a time as any to check in on how states are dealing with winter weather transportation concerns so far this season. There are numerous examples of states turning to technology, investing in equipment and trying to improve on past performance. Here’s a roundup.

This Act states that if a driver's blood contains five nanograms or more of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) per milliliter in whole blood (5 ng/mL) at the time of the offense or within a reasonable time thereafter, this fact gives rise to a permissible inference that the defendant was under the influence of one or more drugs. THC is the primary psychoactive component of marijuana. DUI and DWAI are misdemeanors. Vehicular homicide is a class 3 felony if the driver was under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both. Vehicular assault is a class 4 felony if the driver was under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both.

The Act creates a limited regulatory structure for transportation network companies (TNCs) that use digital networks to connect riders to drivers who provide transportation in their personal vehicles. TNCs are exempt from the regulation for common carriers, contract carriers, and motor carriers but are subject to regulation by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in the Department of Regulatory Agencies.

CSG South

According to June 2015 statistics released by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 40 of the top 100 U.S. ports (coastal, Great Lakes and inland) in terms of tonnage are located in states belonging to the Southern Office of The Council of State Governments (CSG), the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC). Impressively, seven of the top 10 ports were SLC state ports. The Port of South Louisiana and the Port of Houston rose to the top, ranking first and second, respectively. While the SLC has focused on ports, the economic influence of ports and the potential impact of the expansion of the Panama Canal on ports in the South for more than 15 years, this Regional Resource reviews an important allied field: emerging trends linked to the nation's, and specifically the region's, inland ports, waterways and related infrastructure.

CSG Director of Transportation and Infrastructure Policy Sean Slone outlines the top five issues in transportation policy for 2016, including federal funding uncertainty and underinvestment in infrastructure, transportation revenue options, tolling and public-private partnerships, and public transit challenges.  

With the passage of the FAST Act by Congress in late 2015, states have some of the long-term certainty they have long sought in the federal transportation program. But can a mostly status quo, five-year transportation bill help states make up for years of inadequate investment in the nation's infrastructure. More than likely, more than a few will still feel compelled to follow in the footsteps of eight states that raised gas taxes in 2015. Some may also turn to tolling and public-private partnerships to help fund projects, although those tools in the toolbox have seen increasing scrutiny and criticism in some parts of the country. State officials face a variety of other challenges as well including how to plan for the technological and demographic changes that could radically alter the transportation landscape in the years ahead and how to deploy and enhance the kinds of transportation options that will make communities into livable, sustainable, economically vital places. Here are my top five transportation issues for 2016 along with more than 500 links to resources from CSG and a variety of other sources where you can read more.

Across the country, transportation options are being deployed to revitalize cities and suburbs, revive sluggish economies and change the way we live and work. In particular, transit stops have become a focal point for many states and communities hoping to generate the development of office, retail and commercial spaces and flourishing, sustainable neighborhoods around them.

CSG Midwest
An estimated 25 percent of all of the nation’s rail traffic goes through Chicago, where 56 Amtrak trains originate or terminate every day and where six of the nation’s seven largest railroads converge. But the Midwest’s largest city isn’t just a hub of rail transportation; it’s also known as a major “chokepoint”: a source of gridlock, poor on-time performance and dispatching problems. In October, Amtrak’s Chicago Gateway Blue Ribbon Panel released its recommendations for loosening the Chicago “chokepoint,” which poses a larger economic vulnerability to the U.S. economy than any other major rail hub. (A panel-commissioned study estimated that up to $799 billion in annual gross domestic product depends on freight rail service through Chicago.)
CSG Midwest
Four state legislatures in the Midwest made major moves on transportation policy this year, adopting increases in motor fuel taxes that in some cases had been left unchanged for more than a decade.
This decision to boost funding for roads and bridges was one of the region’s more notable legislative trends from the past year. Several factors, transportation experts say, caused 2015 to be a breakthrough year for transportation measures — lower gas prices, growing shortfalls in state transportation funds, gubernatorial and legislative leadership, and the support of key business groups.
In this region, the tax hikes on gasoline and diesel fuel have already taken full effect in Iowa and South Dakota. Nebraska’s four year, phase-in plan begins in January, while in Michigan, the state’s new transportation plan won’t be fully implemented until 2021.

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