Intelligent Transportation Systems

As 2012 dawns, there is still no agreement on new legislation to authorize federal surface transportation programs. The previous legislation, known as SAFETEA-LU, officially expired in 2009 and the programs have been operating under a series of temporary extensions since then, the latest of which expires at the end of March. The primary cause of the delay in approving a SAFETEA-LU successor is of course money. The federal gas tax in recent years has not produced the kinds of revenues it once did and faces an unsustainable future. The Highway Trust Fund, which relies on the gas tax, has required frequent infusions of cash to continue programs. Yet the still struggling economy and other factors have made efforts to seek new revenues to fund transportation politically impossible. While some state governments have used this time of uncertainty at the federal level to move forward on their own to creatively fund infrastructure improvements, others appear to be hunkering down, making the decision to do only maintenance on existing facilities and hoping they can ride out the lack of revenues, shaky economy and growing infrastructure needs until better times are upon us. Here is my expanded list of the top five issues in transportation for 2012.

Before I depart for the holidays, I thought I would leave you transportation policy fans with a few things to read on those iPads and Kindle Fires you may find under the tree Sunday morning. In what has become an annual tradition, it’s time to clear out the CSG Transportation inbox so we can start fresh in the New Year. There are lots of items below on many of the issues we cover regularly here on the blog including: state...

In October 2011, CSG hosted an invitation-only Transportation Policy Academy in Washington, D.C. for a group of 11 state legislators from around the country, many of whom serve in leadership positions on transportation-focused committees in their states. In addition to providing an opportunity for these state leaders to meet with their members of Congress about the future of transportation policy, CSG also invited a group of policy experts, public officials, advocates and observers to speak to the group about the policy landscape, what may lie ahead for states in transportation and what some states are doing in the absence of federal action. In the interest of sharing their insights and expertise with a broader CSG audience, this series of blog posts will feature extended excerpts from their remarks on a wide variety of transportation policy issues. James Corless is the Director of Transportation for America, a coalition of over 400 organizations working to promote a new national transportation policy. During his remarks to policy academy participants, Corless discussed the uncertainty surrounding the future of the federal transportation program, the need to focus on performance measurement and system improvement and how the federal role in transportation is likely to change going forward.

It appeared to be a promising development last week when Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer and Max Baucus and Republican Sens. James Inhofe and David Vitter released a joint statement citing “great progress” and “common ground” on a new transportation authorization bill. But there is already significant skepticism that Boxer and her colleagues can deliver a promised six-year bill that would allow state and local leaders around the country to fund long-term transportation projects going forward. And as usual, there is no shortage of opinions on how changes in federal and state policy might help the nation better address its infrastructure needs.

New reports out in recent weeks detail how the United States is falling behind other countries in infrastructure improvement, offer “taxpayer-friendly” solutions for the nation’s transportation challenges, explain how highway infrastructure spending is connected to the larger U.S. economy and examine tax provisions for financing infrastructure. Here’s a rundown.

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a forum outside Washington, D.C. entitled “Changing the Conversation: Advancing a National Infrastructure Improvement Agenda.” The American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Planning Association and other organizations brought together nearly 100 attendees from the business, academic, government, advocacy, public utilities, transportation, planning and research communities to discuss what might be needed to overcome significant communication barriers and make the case for infrastructure investment in the United States. Here’s a rundown of some of the ideas I heard at the meeting, as well as some worthwhile links to the resources of some of the organizations seeking to move the dialogue forward.

The fairness of charging motorists a mileage fee to help pay for road repairs… The state of the nation’s bridges… The economic impact of the transportation construction industry… How to win public support for road pricing... The keys to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from freight transportation... All are the subjects of recent reports and studies. Here’s a roundup of those reports, along with an update on public-private partnerships.

Rural highways provide many benefits to the nation's transportation system. But rural areas face numerous transportation challenges including a looming highway capacity crisis. Their challenges are similar to those experienced by urban areas but different enough that they need to be carefully considered as officials in Washington debate a new long-term authorization of federal transportation programs. This brief examines some issues those officials should take into account regarding rural road capacity, congestion, road safety, connectivity and mobility and public transit. It also examines how policies addressing livability and transportation funding may impact rural communities.

With the holidays fast approaching, I thought it would be a good time to clear out the ol’ CSG Transportation inbox so that we can make a fresh start in the New Year. In doing so, I ran across a number of recent reports and news items that may be of interest and that may provide worthwhile reading should you have any downtime in between football bowl games in the weeks ahead. They address many of the themes we’ve examined here over the last year and look ahead to what might lay in store in 2011 on issues like federal transportation programs, the condition of America's infrastructure, gas taxes, highway finance alternatives, high-speed rail, freight transportation, transportation and the environment and intelligent transportation systems.

While tolling has long been a fact of life for folks in the Northeastern United States, other parts of the country have also been getting into the act in recent years. Our latest CSG Capitol Research brief entitled “Tolling and Congestion Pricing” examines toll projects underway across the country, the use of tolling as both revenue generating mechanism and part of a congestion reduction strategy, the modernization of toll payment systems and the chances for future proliferation of toll facilities. The brief includes a 50-state chart breaking down the number of each type of toll facility in each state. With a complete list of references, it’s also a good source for further reading on tolling and congestion issues. But there are a number of other recently released reports that may be of interest to you as well.

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