Capitol Comments

Voters in Nashville will head to the polls May 1 to consider a ballot measure that would increase four taxes to pay for a multibillion-dollar mass transit proposal. The referendum was made possible by Tennessee’s 2017 transportation funding legislation, known as the IMPROVE Act, which in addition to increasing gas and diesel taxes and registration fees also allowed voters in the state’s largest counties and four largest cities to consider local tax increases that would be dedicated to transit projects. The Nashville referendum is perhaps the most significant transportation-related initiative on the ballot in the 2018 primaries and is being touted as Music City’s best opportunity to keep mounting traffic woes at bay in the years ahead.

With many legislatures wrapping up sessions this month or already adjourned sine die, it seems like a good time to check in on efforts to seek additional transportation revenues. This year appears to be holding true to form as an even-number election year when votes for gas tax increases and other measures are a bit harder to come by. Still, some states have experienced limited success in moving measures while others remain hopeful for action this year on the transportation funding front.

Following a nationwide search for a place in which to locate its second headquarters, Amazon is expected to announce a winner perhaps soon from among a group of 20 finalists announced in January. As I noted in a post last Fall, the heated competition for HQ2 has not only demonstrated the growing importance of ecommerce and logistics to the nation’s economy but also allowed communities to tout existing infrastructure assets or proposed infrastructure improvements as part of their bids to attract the project. As the finalists have tried to shore up their bids in recent weeks and those that failed to make the list have begun to examine what went wrong, transportation and infrastructure issues have come into play in a variety of ways.

A variety of states are taking steps this year to consider tolling as they seek to generate revenues for transportation, relieve congestion and perhaps qualify for federal transportation funding, which could be more difficult to come by in the future. I have updates on expanded tolling legislation in Utah, tolling studies in Iowa and Minnesota and the failure of a congestion pricing plan in New York. Plus, details on how to attend one of the nation’s premier conferences on public-private partnerships this June.

A March 18 fatal accident involving a self-driving Volvo SUV operated by Uber in Arizona continued to produce reactions and ramifications across the autonomous vehicle policy community this week. Here are some of the latest updates on what policymakers are doing in the wake of the crash, what the crash tells us about autonomous vehicle technology and what it means for Uber and others.  

Pages