Capitol Comments

Tuesday November 8th appears likely to be a pivotal Election Day for the nation’s transportation and infrastructure. With control of The White House and Congress on the line, the future direction of the federal transportation program is also at stake. With control of governorships and state legislatures on the line, so too could be initiatives to seek additional state transportation investment. Meanwhile, communities like Atlanta, Detroit, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Seattle will consider ballot measures that could enable major investments in public transit over the next few years. And voters in Illinois and New Jersey will decide whether to place constitutional protections on the use of transportation funds.

New Jersey’s Democrat-led legislature approved a 23-cent gas tax increase last week after lawmakers struck a $16 billion, eight-year deal with Republican Gov. Chris Christie that will also reduce the sales tax and eliminate the estate tax in the state. The deal will allow stalled transportation projects to resume after Christie halted all but the most essential ones in July as the state’s transportation trust fund ran out of money and expired. But the hard-fought, months-in-the-making agreement also demonstrated once again how different 2016 has been compared to last year when it came to state efforts to increase revenues for transportation.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) this week issued long-awaited guidance delineating responsibilities of the federal and state governments when it comes to policies to pave the way for self-driving cars. This came as the Obama administration signaled that while strong safety oversight will be a hallmark of policies governing testing and deployment, the federal government will encourage innovation in the industry in recognition of the vehicles’ potential to save time, money and lives. Response to the guidance appeared to be largely positive and with the ink not even dry on the document, a number of states appeared poised to move quickly on new autonomous vehicle legislation in the days and months ahead.

Today, the Council of State Governments joins nearly 350 other organizations, businesses and government agencies in expressing support for Imagine a Day Without Water, an initiative of the Value of Water Coalition, a group focused on elevating the importance of water in the economic, environmental and social well-being of America.

The dog days of summer at the end of August aren’t typically known for the level of activity in state capitals. But a couple of legislative hearings held this week in Texas and Michigan could have fairly significant implications for the future of transportation not just in those states but around the country.

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