Highways and Bridges

While President Barack Obama’s third State of the Union address Tuesday focused primarily on familiar themes of economic recovery, the president tipped his hat to some new policies that could have a major impact on states, specifically education reform, infrastructure and hydraulic fracturing.

Obama announced a goal to increase the minimum student dropout age to 18 or until they graduate.

”When students don’t walk away from their education, more of them walk the stage to get their diploma,” Obama said. “When students...

As 2012 dawns, there is still no agreement on new legislation to authorize federal surface  transportation programs, and much of the transportation funding states received from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is gone. While some state and territorial governments (“the states”) 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 are the top five issues in transportation for 2012.

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.

Last week I blogged about 13 states to watch in 2012 on transportation funding. Here are a couple more it might be worth adding to the list, plus updates on some of my original 13.

 

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...

I blogged previously about last week’s National Transportation Policy Summit in Washington, D.C. hosted by the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. You can read my previous postings on the appearance by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica and the panel with five former U.S. Secretaries of Transportation here and here. But the forum also featured several other panels with transportation advocates, stakeholders and analysts weighing in on what might be needed to convince the public and their leaders that now is the time to move forward on infrastructure investment. Among the questions they addressed:

  • How can transportation advocates win support for projects and investment in the post-earmark era?
  • What’s the best way to identify the most “shovel-worthy” projects?
  • Can more accountability and transparency in transportation programs help win back a public skeptical of government?
  • Will an injection of politics into transportation policy help or hinder efforts to move forward on infrastructure?
  • What words does the public respond to best as policy makers try to make the case for infrastructure investment?
  • What’s the best way to emphasize the impact of infrastructure on economic development and job creation?
  • How can developing a plan and vision for transportation at all levels of government and demonstrating visible benefits to the public help advance the cause?

Here is some of what the panelists at the Miller Center forum had to say on those issues.

With significant growth expected in freight transportation over the next several decades as a result of the expansion of the Panama Canal and other factors, a number of states have begun to adopt policies that seek to take trucks off the road and make the nation's supply chain more multi-modal. By improving infrastructure at seaports, incentivizing shippers, making greater use of inland waterways, creating partnerships to reduce freight rail bottlenecks and developing state and regional freight plans, these states stand to make significant improvements to freight efficiency and safety as well as to the environment. 

For those not off to Grandmother’s house just yet, here are a few recent transportation-related stories, links and reports for your post-tryptophan coma reading pleasure. There are items on surface transportation authorization, traffic congestion, the economic impact of infrastructure investment and transportation finance.

The U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee took up bipartisan legislation this week to reauthorize federal surface transportation programs for two years and make major reforms to ensure greater efficiency. 

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. Richard Norment is the Executive Directorof the National Council for Public-Private Partnerships (NCPPP), a non-profit organization of representatives of both the public and private sectors, working to promote the use of public-private partnerships for improved delivery of public services and infrastructure. During his remarks to policy academy participants, Norment discussed the reasons states are exploring public-private partnerships to fund transportation projects and his six keys to successful partnerships.

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