Highway Trust Fund

President Trump’s State of the Union speech and a leaked outline of his infrastructure package last month produced no shortage of opinions about what the administration has in mind for one of his major policy priorities. Many from across the transportation and public policy communities and from across the political spectrum have expressed serious concerns about the shape the package may be taking. Here’s a roundup of some of the reaction so far.

Issue: Infrastructure investment was expected to be a key policy goal of the Trump administration. While the administration did not produce a comprehensive plan to accomplish that in 2017—it’s now expected after the State of the Union in late January—details of the administration’s priorities that have emerged suggested an emphasis on more targeted federal investments, the use of federal dollars to encourage states that help themselves by seeking additional transportation revenues, and an effort to leverage private sector investment. In late September, the president appeared to sour on how big a role public-private partnerships, or P3s, could play in a federal investment package, but many continue to believe P3s could play a significant, if limited, role in facilitating some infrastructure projects.

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?

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.

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.

While not likely to be a major issue in the fall campaign, the future of the nation’s infrastructure did receive some attention in the party platforms released last month in advance of the Republican and Democratic presidential nominating conventions. The platforms reveal very different philosophies that could guide the federal government’s approach to infrastructure in the years to come and have a huge impact for states seeking to meet their future infrastructure needs. But the statements of the presidential candidates themselves on infrastructure issues are also prompting some attention this week.

The transportation policy roundtable during the 2016 CSG Transportation Leaders Policy Academy in Washington, D.C. wrapped up with a panel discussion on the future of the federal-state-local partnership on transportation. The panelists included Emil Frankel and Jeff Davis of the Eno Center for Transportation, Joe McAndrew of Transportation for America and Brigham McCown of the Alliance for Innovation & Infrastructure. They discussed what the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act means for states, what happens after it expires in 2020, how states might be encouraged to innovate more on transportation funding, and why it’s important for federal and state governments to invest in better transportation projects in the future.

Ed Mortimer is executive director of transportation infrastructure at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and leads the Americans for Transportation Mobility, or ATM, Coalition as its executive director. He was among the presenters at a policy roundtable CSG hosted on May 19 as part of the 6th Annual CSG Transportation Leaders Policy Academy in Washington. He spoke about the importance of infrastructure to the business community, the importance of Congress seeing progress on transportation projects under the FAST Act, the importance of maintaining existing infrastructure and efforts to consolidate federal transportation programs.

Joung Lee is the policy director at the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials in Washington, D.C. He was among the presenters at a policy roundtable CSG hosted on May 19 as part of the 6th Annual CSG Transportation Leaders Policy Academy in Washington. He spoke about the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act approved by Congress last year and its impact for states as well as the need for Congress to find a long-term solution to the solvency of the federal Highway Trust Fund.

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