Authorization

The future of transportation was very much on the minds of participants at the annual meeting of the Southern Legislative Conference held earlier this month in Charleston, South Carolina. The role of transportation in economic development, the status of a new federal highway bill, state funding of infrastructure improvements and efforts to prepare southern ports for the expansion of the Panama Canal all received attention from various speakers over the course of the five-day meeting. Here is just some of what I heard on those topics.

Last week I had the pleasure to speak at a conference on sustainable transportation hosted by the organization Women in Government in Newport, Rhode Island. Thirty-two state legislators representing 20 states attended the forum and heard from a number of distinguished experts on such topics as federal and state transportation funding, complete streets programs, commuter transportation, community design and integrating transportation networks to improve mobility and spur economic development. Here’s a rundown of what participants heard at the conference along with some links to resources that may be useful in setting your state’s sustainable transportation goals.

The interconnectedness of the nation’s transportation system and the needs of that system are put into sharp focus when one considers what our shipping ports and highways may look like after 2014. That’s when the $5.2 billion expansion of the Panama Canal is expected to be complete.

This session offered both a federal and a state perspective on transportation finance and budgeting. Speakers from the U.S. Department of Transportation and New York State’s Department of Transportation took part in the forum. Jack Wells, Chief Economist for U.S. DOT, discussed America’s infrastructure needs, federal transportation programs, and what’s ahead for reauthorization and transportation finance. Stanley Gee, Acting Commissioner of the New York State DOT, gave an overview of his state’s transportation system, spoke about the current budget crisis and transportation funding crisis in the state, and discussed the painful choices being made in his department.

Charging motorists on a per mile basis has gained some traction in recent years as a potential revenue mechanism to replace state and federal fuel taxes. Pilot projects to test VMT systems in many states are helping to define how they would work.

Nationwide marketing campaigns and state efforts to seek public input and build trust in transportation decision making are helping to galvanize support for the infrastructure investment many say America needs.

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Council of State Governments calls on Congress to seize a historic opportunity and pass an adequately funded, multi-modal, multi-year transportation authorization bill to include a focus on all modes of travel as soon as possible, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Council of State Governments commends Congress for transportation and infrastucture funding included as part of the ARRA but expresses disappointment that the funding was not at the level needed to make substantial progress in meeting the nation's transportation infrastructure needs; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Council of State Governments will seek to partner with organizations that share our philosophy about the need for historic investment in the nation's transportation infrastructure in advocacy of these issues before Congress.

The transportation needs of this country are growing. There is increased congestion, an increased demand for public transportation and increasing fuel costs. This increased demand on the transportation system has led to an increased strain on states’ budgets as they also try to fund escalating costs for healthcare and education.

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