Cost and Financing

State legislators attending this July’s CSG Transportation Policy Academy in Portland, Oregon also had the opportunity to see some of the city as part of a tour organized by First Stop Portland, a Portland State University-housed organization that develops urban sustainability study programs for visiting delegations. Academy participants attended a luncheon at the Mirabella high rise retirement community where they heard remarks from local transportation officials and others. They also toured the transit-oriented South Waterfront, rode the Portland Aerial Tram and Portland Streetcar, saw a bridge currently under construction as part of the Portland-Milwaukie light rail extension that will serve the area and visited the construction site for a new academic campus for Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), one of the area’s largest employers.

The final morning of CSG’s Transportation Policy Academy in Portland, Oregon featured a transportation policy roundtable, which included a presentation on the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure. Greg DiLoreto is the 2013 President of ASCE and since 1999 has served as General Manager and CEO for the second largest water utility in Oregon, the Tualatin Valley Water District, which serves over 200,000 in the west Portland metro area. He told policy academy attendees the infrastructure grades in the new report card aren’t acceptable and America is paying a heavy price.

A gas tax increase in Minnesota appears dead for this session. A plan to index Louisiana’s gas tax to inflation failed to win votes this week. And transportation funding plans are moving forward in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania but face political challenges ahead. Here’s the latest roundup of what’s going on around the country as states seek solutions to meeting their transportation needs.

With the days of 2012 dwindling to a precious few, it’s time to look ahead to 2013 and what could be on the horizon for states seeking funding solutions to their infrastructure needs. Could 2013 be the year states move to increase their gas taxes or fees or enact other revenue raising measures? A number appear poised to do so. But, it should be said, that appeared to be the case at the beginning of this year too (see my not very prescient January blog posts here and here). Nevertheless, there is certainly a lot of transportation talk in state capitals in advance of 2013 legislative sessions. So, with no risk of damaging my already abysmal record of prognostication, here’s my list of states it might be worth keeping an eye on next year.

I’m about to head to Austin for the CSG National Conference, where our Transportation Policy Task Force will convene Saturday to hear transportation experts discuss the state of the nation’s infrastructure, the implementation of the federal surface transportation bill known as MAP-21 and the latest research going on around the country on a possible replacement for the gas tax. Before I hit the road, here are a few recent items on transportation funding issues states are grappling with in advance of their 2013 legislative sessions. Gas tax increases, public-private partnerships, TIFIA loans, tolling and mileage-based fees are all getting a look. I also have follow up items on ballot measures considered this year and how the new chairman of the U.S. House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee might wield the gavel.

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.

The 2012 election offered plenty to digest on the transportation front. From state and local ballot measures to the balance of power in Washington, here’s a rundown of what happened and where you can read more about what it all might mean for the nation’s transportation system.

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.

MAP-21, the federal surface transportation authorization bill Congress passed this summer, doesn’t even officially take effect until next month. But a few folks on Capitol Hill are already reportedly talking about what happens when it expires in 2014. Could mileage-based user fees factor into the next authorization and achieving a more sustainable revenue model? And what role are gas taxes, tolling and other revenue mechanisms likely to play at the state and federal levels down the road? Here are a few recent updates.

The U.S. Senate Wednesday passed a long-awaited, 18-month, bipartisan, $109 billion bill to authorize federal surface transportation programs on a vote of 74 to 22. Attention now turns to the House, where leaders could decide to take up the Senate measure or seek to resurrect their own five-year, $260 billion plan that has so far failed to win the same level of support. Meanwhile the March 31st deadline when the latest SAFETEA-LU extension expires looms large and many believe another short-term extension will be needed to give time for the House to act and for lawmakers to work out details of a final bill. But, as U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told a Congressional committee today, that scenario is complicated by the start of the road construction season when states must have some certainty that the money will be there to pay road contractors over the next several months and beyond. Still, despite the challenges ahead and the Senate bill’s shortcomings, many are praising both its passage and its provisions, many of which could have a huge impact for state governments for years to come. Here are some notable elements of the legislation.

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