Smart Growth

Hopefully many of you have had a chance to dive into my recent post on the Top 5 Issues for 2014 in Transportation. It’s part of a series across all our policy areas here at CSG that has become a popular annual feature. The expanded version of the transportation list (which I have newly updated this week) includes extensive links to related articles and resources from throughout 2013. Now with nearly a month of 2014 under our belts, I thought it would be a good time to take a look at those Top 5 issues through the prism of the New Year and the transportation stories it has generated so far. I have updates on MAP-21 reauthorization and the future of the Highway Trust Fund, the legacy of MAP-21, continuing state activity on transportation revenues, the evolution of public-private partnerships and states and communities working on finding solutions for a multi-modal transportation future.

The CSG Transportation Policy Academy in Washington, D.C. got underway October 28 with a transportation-focused bus tour hosted by the Maryland Department of Transportation. The tour included a stop at the future site of the Takoma Park/Langley Transit Center (now the site of a Taco Bell) and a briefing on plans for the Purple Line light-rail project, an innovative transit public-private partnership. The tour also stopped at Mid-Pike Plaza in the White Flint area of Montgomery County, where a mixed-use, transit-oriented development is under construction. Attendees also traversed the length of MD200, the Intercounty Connector as MDOT officials discussed the financing and operation of the two-year old toll road that connects Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. Below is a compendium of presentations and handouts from the tour as well as additional reading on some of the topics discussed.

Eleven state legislators from around the country, many of them transportation committee chairs in their respective states, attended the invitation-only CSG Transportation Policy Academy July 18-20, 2013 in Portland, Oregon. The event included an intensive briefing on Oregon’s pursuit of a mileage-based road user fee, tours that encompassed both the flow of commerce at the Port of Portland and transit-oriented development along the city’s South Waterfront, keynote addresses on the history of Portland’s approach to transportation and land use and how the Oregon Department of Transportation is evolving to meet the state’s needs, and a roundtable discussion that examined such topics as: the state of the nation’s infrastructure, the role of the business community in encouraging infrastructure investment, the role of metropolitan planning organizations, state efforts to seek new transportation revenues and the future of the federal-state-local partnership on transportation. Below are links to pages highlighting various aspects of the policy academy with additional photos, resources and further reading.

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 panel at the CSG Transportation Policy Academy in Portland, Oregon focused on the future of the federal-state-local partnership in transportation. Among the speakers was Larry Ehl, the founder and publisher of Transportation Issues Daily, a nationally recognized blog on federal transportation issues. Ehl draws on more than 20 years as a government affairs and transportation professional including as Federal Relations Manager for the Washington State Department of Transportation, Chief of Staff to U.S. Senator Slade Gorton (R-WA) and Director of Corporate and Government Relations for the construction services company Fisher Companies, Inc. He talked about rural transportation concerns, complete streets policies and the search for new transportation revenues at the state and local levels.

The importance of infrastructure to economic development was the focus of remarks by Charlie Howard at the CSG Transportation Policy Academy in Portland, Oregon on July20th. Howard is Director of Integrated Planning at the Puget Sound Regional Council, a Metropolitan Planning Organization and Regional Transportation Planning Organization that helps to develop policies in regional growth management, transportation and economic development in the Seattle area. He told policy academy attendees how the Seattle region’s burgeoning population is informing what his agency does.

The opening dinner of CSG’s Transportation Policy Academy in Portland, Oregon included remarks by Jennifer Dill, Ph.D., professor in the School of Urban Studies and Planning at Portland State University and Director of the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium. She introduced the group to the city of Portland and its unique approach to transportation and land use planning in a presentation entitled “Toward Sustainable Urban Mobility: Insights from Portland’s Journey.”

I’m about to head to Washington, D.C. for the Transportation Research Board’s annual meeting (more on that below). But before I hit the road, I thought I would leave you with a few links to some recent transportation-related reports and articles that might be worthy of your time. I have items on mileage-based user fees, the future of tolling, speed limits, the road building industry forecast for 2013, transit-oriented development and how to communicate the value of preserving infrastructure.

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.

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.

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