Alternative Funding Sources

2017 was a big year for state transportation funding efforts, following in the footsteps of recent odd-number years 2013 and 2015 that also saw significant activity. So, what’s on tap for 2018? Here’s my annual look ahead.

Infrastructure investment was a big winner on Election Day 2017 as a variety of state and local ballot measures around the country to raise taxes or authorize borrowing won voter approval. Here’s a roundup of what happened Tuesday and a look ahead to 2018.

While 2017 is considered an off-year in most state election cycles, Election Day this year still will find transportation on the ballot in a variety of ways. From two key gubernatorial contests to state and local ballot measures, here’s a preview of what to look for on November 7 as well as updates on a few transportation-related matters already decided by voters.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) on October 6 announced the latest recipients of federal grants to enable testing of alternative methods of transportation funding. The $95 million Surface Transportation System Funding Alternatives program was established under 2015’s FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act.  

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.

Issue: State transportation funding efforts could be back in the spotlight in 2017. The list of those that could tackle transportation revenues includes as many as 16 states. Some have been at this for several years and haven’t achieved success due to political challenges. Some have had a task force or special commission in place in 2016 to come up with funding ideas. Plenty of old ideas (gas taxes, registration fees, tolls) are likely to be considered. But mileage-based user fees and other innovations are likely to get a look as well.

After a year in 2015 when eight states raised gas taxes, 2016 saw less activity. New Jersey raised its gas tax by 23 cents and Rhode Island funded a multi-year bridge repair program with a new toll on large commercial trucks and a combination of borrowing and refinancing. But other than those states and a couple of others that approved bond measures for infrastructure projects and the like, most postponed or agreed to extend their transportation revenue discussions into 2017. That means a large number of states could see activity next year on that front. While some have been embroiled in the funding debate for months or years and will continue those conversations, others had a special task force in 2016 to explore revenue ideas and could look to move those ideas forward during the 2017 legislative sessions. Here’s a list of the 14 most likely candidates.

Donald Trump’s surprising win wasn’t the only big story to emerge on Election Day. Voters also had the opportunity to weigh in on a number of important transportation-related ballot measures around the country. Here’s a look at how they fared and an extensive collection of links where you can read more about those measures and the impacts of other election results.

Tuesday November 8th appears likely to be a pivotal Election Day for the nation’s transportation and infrastructure. With control of The White House and Congress on the line, the future direction of the federal transportation program is also at stake. With control of governorships and state legislatures on the line, so too could be initiatives to seek additional state transportation investment. Meanwhile, communities like Atlanta, Detroit, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Seattle will consider ballot measures that could enable major investments in public transit over the next few years. And voters in Illinois and New Jersey will decide whether to place constitutional protections on the use of transportation funds.

Five states and two multi-state collaboratives will be the first recipients of federal grants under a $95 million program that could go a long way toward determining the future of transportation funding in the United States, it was announced this week.

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