Cost and Financing

In Alabama Department of Revenue v. CSX Transportation the Supreme Court held 7-2 that railroads can be compared to their competitors when determining whether a tax is discriminatory in violation of the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act (4-R Act).  Different taxes paid by railroads and their competitors must be compared with determining whether a tax railroads pay is discriminatory.  The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief in this case disagreeing with the Court’s first holding and agreeing with its second holding. 

State capitals were where the action was in 2013, with six states approving significant revenue packages and a number of others setting in motion plans for 2014, when the activity is expected to continue around the country. Some of the attention now shifts back to Washington as Congress must again consider legislation to authorize federal transportation programs and decide what to do about the dwindling Highway Trust Fund and as the legacy of the 2012 legislation, known as MAP-21, is cemented. Meanwhile public-private partnerships, which have helped some states fund pricey transportation projects and weather fiscal uncertainty in recent years, will likely continue to evolve in the year ahead. All this as officials at all levels of government and other stakeholders continue to seek approaches to ensure the vision of a multi-modal future for communities and commerce is realized. Here’s my expanded article on the top 5 issues in transportation for 2014 and a wide variety of additional CSG and non-CSG resources where you can read more.

With the government shutdown continuing into a second week, there may be a whole lot less bureaucracy in Washington these days. But that actually may be throwing up some roadblocks for the completion of transportation projects around the country. I also have links to some recent reports on performance measurement, transportation funding and why some public-private partnerships fail.

While 2013 has been a big year for states considering and approving new transportation revenues, there are signs that a number of states are still struggling to figure out how to pay for maintaining their infrastructure. There’s a plan in Texas to convert some drilling-affected roads to gravel. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania has started posting weight restrictions on some of its bridges. I also have a number of other recent items below to catch you up on the last couple of weeks and provide plenty of reading material through the long holiday weekend.

The CSG Transportation Policy Academy got underway July 18th with a tour of the Port of Portland, a diversified facility that is critical to the state’s economy. Attendees heard from the port’s Community Affairs Tour and Outreach Manager Brooke Berglund and State Government Relations Manager Annette Price about the port’s imprint and about how it has benefitted from a state grant and loan program called Connect Oregon that has helped fund key upgrades to aviation, marine and rail infrastructure.

Four reports out this week highlight the potential consequences of not investing in the nation’s infrastructure and how states can make better use of existing resources to improve transportation. Our friends at the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) are out with the fourth installment in their “Failure to Act” series, which examines the economic cost of current infrastructure investment trends. The Bipartisan Policy Center and Eno Center for Transportation examine what a reduced federal investment could mean for transportation (and for state and local governments). A report from the Brookings Institution and Rockefeller Foundation outlines ways states can enhance the impact of state infrastructure banks and revolving funds for transportation. And best practices for state departments of transportation are the focus of a new report from Smart Growth America and the State Smart Transportation Initiative.

I have an article this month in the Kentucky business magazine The Lane Report that looks at the role the state’s public riverports play in regional economic development for a number of Kentucky communities. Ports and the transport of cargo and freight have also been the subject of a number of recent reports and items in the news so it looks like it’s time for a roundup.

In case you missed it, I have an article in the latest issue of Capitol Ideas that looks at efforts in some states to invest in transportation modes that serve freight. So I thought it would be a good time to take a look at some other recent freight transportation-related items from around the country.

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...

The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee this week passed a bill that would update federal freight transportation policy. Also, the latest round of TIGER grant recipients announced this week includes a number of projects to improve freight facilities around the country. But those two stories are just the tip of the iceberg as far as freight transportation is concerned. As a follow-up to our recent Capitol Research brief on how states are “Developing Freight Transportation Alternatives,” here’s a round-up of some recent freight news.