Highways and Bridges

While 2012 saw Congress finally take action on a federal surface transportation authorization bill, much of the action in 2013 could shift to state capitals and set the stage for what’s likely to be a pivotal 2014. Here’s my list of the top 5 issues in transportation for 2013 and some additional resources where you can read more.

The new federal surface transportation authorization bill includes many provisions welcomed by state governments. But the two-year bill, known as MAP-21, did not address long-term transportation revenue needs. Attendees learned how states are implementing MAP-21 and exploring potential new transportation revenue sources and got an update on the state of the nation’s infrastructure. Speakers included representatives from the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Texas Department of Transportation, and Texas A&M University’s Texas Transportation Institute.

The new federal surface transportation authorization bill includes many provisions welcomed by state governments. But the two-year bill, known as MAP-21, did not address long-term transportation revenue needs. Attendees learned how states are implementing MAP-21 and exploring potential new transportation revenue sources and got an update on the state of the nation’s infrastructure. Speakers included representatives from the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Texas Department of Transportation, and Texas A&M University’s Texas Transportation Institute.

Before I depart for the long holiday weekend, I thought I would pass along some transportation policy-related links you might want to peruse in between turkey sandwiches, Black Friday sales and endless football over the coming days. There are items below about some potential new transportation leaders in Washington, a starter list of states that might address transportation revenue needs next year, and more.

It took a storm of unprecedented proportions for it to happen but Superstorm Sandy, in forcing the shutdown of bridges and tunnels, subways, shipping routes and airports, managed to accomplish what months of campaigning could not: putting infrastructure front and center in the 2012 election (or at least disrupting the regular political dialogue and partisanship momentarily). As we enter the campaign’s final weekend, here are some links to ponder about Sandy, the election and what’s at stake for the future of the nation’s infrastructure.

Transportation has been a mostly neglected issue on the presidential campaign trail this year. That has left media organizations and political and transportation analysts to try to fill the void in differentiating where President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney stand on transportation issues and what the election of one or the other might mean for state governments. With a week to go before the nation chooses a chief executive who may determine the future of transportation for decades to come, here’s a reading guide on the candidates.

We have several new transportation-related publications here in the Knowledge Center this month. Here are a few updates and additional resources on the topics they address.

James Bass is Chief Financial Officer of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). He will speak to members of the CSG Transportation Policy Task Force at the CSG National Conference in Austin on December 1, 2012 (see the task force agenda here and register for the conference here). I interviewed Bass for an article in the October 25th issue of the Capitol Ideas E-Newsletter. Below is an extended transcript of our conversation. He discusses federal transportation funding, the use of public-private partnerships and tolling in Texas, and the Lone Star State’s future transportation revenue needs.

MAP-21, the federal surface transportation authorization passed by Congress in 2012, incorporates a series of provisions for accelerating transportation project delivery and streamlining an environmental review process, which some believe has become a major contributor to project delays. The provisions include many long sought by state departments of transportation and some that have already been part of an ongoing Federal Highway Administration initiative. This brief examines what was in the bill, why specific strategies for accelerating project delivery were emphasized, the arguments for and against them and what it could all mean for state governments and for the length of transportation projects going forward.

A few items from the last few weeks provide a look at what states are learning about their future infrastructure needs, the harsh fiscal realities they face and how transportation priorities may need to change in the years ahead: The condition of roads in Texas is costing individual motorists as much as $2,000 a year, a new report says. Massachusetts transportation officials say they won’t build any more superhighways and are calling on people to travel by means other than the solo car trip. After the failure of this summer’s transportation sales tax referendum in Georgia, a think tank offers ideas for Plan B. Pennsylvania awaits word from its governor on how to move forward to address that state’s transportation needs. Minnesota officials expect the state’s roads to be in decline over the next two decades as transportation revenues remain flat. Connecticut gets an assessment of how its infrastructure capital program stacks up against other states. And Tennessee re-evaluates its lengthy transportation wish list.

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