Transportation

Next month, state and federal officials and representatives of the private sector will converge on New York City for the InfraAmericas U.S. P3 Infrastructure Forum 2015, an annual conference assessing the state of public-private partnerships in infrastructure. In anticipation of that event, here’s a roundup of recent news on P3 projects around the country. I have items on when Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan might decide the fate of a P3 light rail project, why a new Cape Cod bridge might be closer to reality and why an Ohio bypass may cost more than originally advertised. Plus details on how you can register to attend the InfraAmericas forum to join the conversation on this important tool many state policymakers are turning to as they seek to meet the nation’s infrastructure needs.

Janet Kavinoky is the Executive Director for Transportation and Infrastructure at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, DC and Vice President of the Americans for Transportation Mobility Coalition. Pat Thomas is Vice President of Global Public Affairs for UPS and currently serves as First Vice Chairman at the American Trucking Associations. Both were speakers at a transportation policy roundtable May 12 in Washington as part of the 2015 CSG Transportation Policy Academy. In these excerpted portions of their remarks to state legislators attending the academy, they spoke about why both of their organizations support a federal gas tax increase, why Congress hasn’t been able to reach agreement on a plan to meet the nation’s infrastructure investment needs, what it may take to convince them to do so and how predicted changes ahead for freight transportation makes a national focus on the issue imperative.

Joung Lee is the Policy Director at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) in Washington, DC. He was among the speakers at a policy roundtable CSG hosted May 12 in Washington as part of the 2015 Transportation Policy Academy. During these portions of his remarks, Lee spoke to state legislators attending the academy about why the federal Highway Trust Fund faces insolvency again this summer and some of the options Congress could consider to address the situation.

Brian Pallasch is the managing director for government relations and infrastructure initiatives at the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in Washington, DC. He was among the presenters at a policy roundtable CSG hosted on May 12 as part of the 2015 Transportation Policy Academy in Washington. During these excerpts from his remarks, he discusses ASCE’s 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, the economic costs of not investing in infrastructure, why ASCE supports an increase in the federal gas tax and a permanent fix for the Highway Trust Fund and why he believes a proposal to eliminate the federal role in transportation is a bad idea.

Maryland Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn was the keynote speaker at the opening dinner of the 2015 CSG Transportation Policy Academy in Washington, DC on May 11. Rahn, who was appointed by Governor Larry Hogan on January 21st of this year, is the first person to lead transportation departments in three different states—New Mexico, Missouri and now Maryland. In these excerpts of his remarks, Rahn touched on hot button topics like Hogan’s reassessment of two light rail projects in the state and recent decision to lower tolls on bridges and roadways in the name of tax relief. He also weighed in on how he thinks Congress might address expiring federal transportation program authorization and the dwindling Highway Trust Fund.

State lawmakers in Nebraska voted last week (May 14) to override the veto of Gov. Pete Ricketts and approve a six-cents-per-gallon gas tax increase. In doing so, Nebraska became the sixth state to approve a gas tax increase for transportation needs this year. That equals the number of states that moved major transportation funding packages in 2013, the most recent big year for such efforts. The news came during Infrastructure Week just as many participants were hearing that Congress is unlikely to follow suit anytime soon to shore up the dwindling Highway Trust Fund and provide any long-term certainty for state transportation officials.

CSG Midwest
Michigan voters have put the brakes on a $1.2 billion plan to raise taxes in order to invest more in the state’s roads and bridges. The plan, approved by the Legislature in late 2014 as a constitutional amendment, was soundly defeated at the polls — by a margin of 80 percent to 20 percent.

According to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report, the national average price for a gallon of gas on May 6 was $2.64, the highest it has been this year, up 61 cents from the low of $2.03 per gallon in January. AAA reports that this is the largest seasonal increase in gas prices since 2012. California has the highest average gas price at $3.71 per gallon, with Hawaii, Nevada, Alaska and Oregon rounding out the 5 states with the highest gas prices. The states with the lowest gas prices are South Carolina at $2.35 per gallon, and Missouri, Louisiana and Mississippi at $2.39.

Michigan voters Tuesday declined to support a ballot measure that would have hiked the state’s general sales tax, fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees to provide funding for dilapidated roads but removed the sales tax on fuel, which currently goes to other purposes. I also have a report from last week’s International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike conference on transportation finance and road usage charging in Portland, Oregon. I’ll bring you up to speed about CSG’s involvement in next week’s Infrastructure Week activities and look ahead to a conference next month highlighting public-private partnerships.

As states ponder the future of transportation funding, tolling is playing an increasingly significant role. Tolls are helping states close funding gaps, support capital investment and improve mobility. Developments at the federal and state levels make the trend toward increased tolling likely to continue. But some states have seen pushback against the proliferation of tolls and Texas in particular could face a rocky road ahead as that state tries to deal with increased congestion due to population growth.

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