Cost and Financing

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided $48 billion to states for transportation infrastructure projects. States achieved significant successes in 2010 in  meeting deadlines associated with the legislation, starting and completing projects on time and under budget, creating jobs and doing it all with little fraud or waste. Still, some questions have been raised about whether the stimulus could have had a greater impact, which types of projects were funded and which states received the most funding. Despite its political unpopularity in 2010, the Recovery Act proved its worth to state transportation officials around the country.

Chapter 9 of the 2011 Book of the States contains the following articles and tables:

Book of the States 2011

Chapter 9: Selected State Policies and Programs

Articles:

  1. An Impossible Choice: Reconciling State Budget Cuts and Disasters that Demand Adequate Management
  2. ...

Today marks the 55th anniversary of President Eisenhower’s signing of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, which created the Interstates and the Highway Trust Fund. The anniversary has many transportation experts weighing in on where the nation’s highway system stands today and what might lie in store for its future, including as it relates to the next federal surface transportation authorization bill. Here’s a sampling of opinion.

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 blogged about a recent forum in which transportation and infrastructure experts came together to discuss how to move the conversation forward on addressing the nation’s infrastructure needs. One of the consistent themes throughout that meeting involved the need to put greater emphasis on performance metrics to assure the public and their representatives in government that investments in infrastructure are being well spent and having the kind of impact they hope in areas like economic development. Well there’s a new report out today from The Rockefeller Foundation and the Pew Center on the States that assesses the capacity of all 50 states to use those kinds of metrics to identify just what they’re getting for their transportation dollars.

State officials have plenty of thoughts on what should be in the next authorization of federal transportation programs. Last week they used a variety of venues to once again let Congress know their priorities for the successor to SAFETEA-LU, the 2005 authorization legislation that officially expired in 2009 which has been operating under a series of temporary extensions since. But many wonder whether a new bill that is expected to be substantially more limited in scope and dollars than past efforts can come close to meeting state wish lists.

This week CSG released a new Capitol Facts & Figures policy brief highlighting efforts to increase or otherwise change State Motor Fuel Taxes in a number of states this year. Although some earlier this year predicted that several states, faced with significant infrastructure challenges and limited options to raise needed transportation revenues, would increase their gas taxes in 2011, that hasn’t yet come to pass. Instead, escalating gas prices caused by instability in the Middle East and North Africa have meant that gas tax increases are still just as politically unpopular as they were in 2010, when no state adopted one. But that doesn’t mean there haven’t been some interesting developments this year. Here are some updates on recent activity in South Dakota, Arkansas, Oregon and other states.

While gas taxes as currently enacted in many states have significant limitations, they are still seen by many as the most viable option for raising substantial transportation revenue in the near term. Though increasing motor fuel taxes to raise additional revenue has proved to be politically challenging in many states in recent years, a handful of states in 2011 have considered, are considering or may soon consider gas tax changes. 

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.

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