Bold Leadership, Compelling Vision Needed to Address Transportation Challenges
MAP-21 was one of the most transformational pieces of legislation in the area of transportation, Dave Nichols, director of the Missouri Department of Transportation, said Friday during the session, “Transportation Funding and Performance in the MAP-21 Era.”
One of the benefits of MAP-21 is its focus on performance management. Mara Campbell, customer relations director for MDOT, led the effort in Missouri to implement a performance management process and noted that it provides officials an opportunity to measure the tangible results in areas such as safety, access, customer service and value. It also holds state officials accountable.
“Every individual at the department knows that they are responsible for moving the needle toward those metrics,” said Campbell.
Missouri began implementing performance measures in 2005 and has seen key improvements in the years since, including fewer fatalities. But implementing a performance management system is not always easy.
“It’s an evolving process,” Campbell said.
Key challenges remain in implementing performance metrics at the national level. The definitions for key metrics, like serious injuries, currently vary in definition across the states.
Nichols said MAP-21’s insolvency is another challenge. Created as a two-year program, MAP-21 has yet to be fully implemented even while reauthorization efforts are already underway.
“How do we plan five years in advance when we don’t know what we’re going to get (in federal funding)?” he said.
Officials in Missouri are increasingly looking at in-state funding sources for transportation initiatives. Nichols said new funding strategies are needed as gas sales decline. State officials are looking at a range of transportation funding alternatives, such as a 1 cent sales tax, to provide the resources needed to keep up with the state’s growing transportation needs.
Resources also are needed to improve the nation’s declining infrastructure system, said Larry Frevert with the American Society of Civil Engineers. Highlighting the results of the society’s 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, he noted that grades for areas such as roads, airports, railways, bridges and drinking water range from D- to C+, with an overall grade of D+.
Frevert warned that critical investments are needed to update and improve our nation’s infrastructure. In total, the engineering society estimates a $3.6 trillion investment is needed by 2020.
To meet the growing demands on our nation’s infrastructure, Frevert said, “it’s going to take bold leadership and it’s going to take a compelling vision.”