Transportation

Congress approved legislation in 2012 known as Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, or MAP-21, that not only provided two years of funding for transportation programs and a variety of policy changes after nearly three years of short-term extensions but also set in motion a process that continues today, even after minor tweaks were made in 2015’s five-year Fixing America’s Surface Transportation, or FAST, Act. States and planning organizations have been working with the Federal Highway Administration, or FHWA, to implement a performance-based approach to the federal highway program.

Last December, I compiled my annual list of the states to watch on transportation funding. Last month we followed that up with a CSG eCademy webinar featuring Alison Premo Black of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association and reporters from three key states. With legislative sessions well underway in many places, it’s time to see where things stand in the debates about transportation funding going on around the country.

The Council of State Governments has released its annual listing of the top five issues legislators will face this session in nine key policy areas, including education, workforce development, energy and the environment, federal affairs, fiscal and economic development, health, interstate compacts, transportation, and international affairs.

The election of Donald J. Trump in November left some state transportation advocates scratching their heads about the role states and localities will need to play in the years ahead to ensure that progress on transportation continues, that priorities are maintained and that future investments reflect those priorities.

CSG Director of Transportation and Infrastructure Policy Sean Slone outlines the top five issues in transportation policy for 2017, including federal infrastructure investment plans, state solutions for infrastructure funding, autonomous vehicles, transit-oriented community develpoment, project selection and prioritization.

While the number of states exploring transportation funding options in 2016 was down from 2015’s record pace, 2017 could see significant activity. Several states had special task forces in place in 2016 to discuss funding options, while others have targeted 2017 as the year for action or are completing unfinished business from years past. During this annual CSG eCademy webinar, we’ll hear from transportation experts and statehouse and transportation beat reporters about what could lie ahead in 2017 legislative sessions around the country.

People with disabilities are a major contributing group to the workforce. However, the unemployment rate for those with disabilities is about twice as much as the unemployment rate of the general population. This high rate of unemployment could be reduced by taking the proper steps to provide workers with disabilities the appropriate accommodations to allow them to be successful in the workplace. These accommodations include access to transportation, assistive workplace technologies and other employment supports.

Issue: States are seeking to change how transportation projects are selected by making project selection less political, determining which ones could have the best return on investment, factoring in long-term costs and reconsidering some long-planned projects that may no longer make sense in the modern age. Increasingly facing limited resources, they likely will need to do more of that in the future.

Issue: After years of saying they were still years away, autonomous vehicles and other technologies are here—or nearly here (at least to some degree). Uber has a fleet of autonomous vehicles in Pittsburgh. Uber’s self-driving truck company, Otto, recently delivered a truck full of beer in Colorado. So now the question becomes how will state governments respond and how will they need to respond? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued guidelines last summer for states to consider in drafting autonomous vehicle legislation. But in trying to encourage the development of these technologies and perhaps reap an economic windfall, states will need to guard against doing more harm than good through legislation and regulation.

Issue: During the campaign, Donald Trump called for a $1 trillion package to invest in the nation’s infrastructure. But the devil likely will be in the details for both Republicans and Democrats when it comes to funding the plan and deciding what to fund. Beyond any one-time infrastructure investment in 2017 though, will Congress be able to hit the ground running so they can be ready when it comes time to reauthorize the FAST Act transportation authorization bill in 2020?

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