Top 5 Issues for 2018: Transportation & Infrastructure
CSG Director of Transportation and Infrastructure Policy Sean Slone outlines the top five issues in transportation and infrastructure policy for 2018, including the growing logistics economy, the federal role in transportation, states seeking transportation funding solutions, the precarious condition of U.S. infrastructure and the policy implications of emerging transportation technologies. Links included to CSG’s expanded coverage and further reading on each issue.
The Growing Logistics Economy and Its Implications for Infrastructure & Policy
Factors like the decline of brick-and-mortar retail and rise of e-commerce in recent years have produced a transformation of the nation’s supply chain that is impacting multiple modes of transportation from trucking to rail to ports and airports. Those states that have been most successful in attracting elements of the new logistics economy have demonstrated the ability to tout key infrastructure assets, invest where necessary and enact programs to ensure they will have the workforce in place to serve this sector. As innovative companies like Amazon continue to expand their footprint in the years ahead, these efforts are likely to become even more important for those logistics leaders and the other states that hope to compete with them.
The Changing Federal Role in Transportation and the Potential Role for the Private Sector
Infrastructure investment was expected to be a key policy goal of the Trump administration. While the administration did not produce a comprehensive plan to accomplish that in 2017—it’s now expected after the State of the Union in late January—details of the administration’s priorities that have emerged suggested an emphasis on more targeted federal investments, the use of federal dollars to encourage states that help themselves by seeking additional transportation revenues, and an effort to leverage private sector investment. In late September, the president appeared to sour on how big a role public-private partnerships, or P3s, could play in a federal investment package, but many continue to believe P3s could play a significant, if limited, role in facilitating some infrastructure projects.
States Seeking Transportation Funding Solutions
Seven states (CA, IN, MT, OR, SC, TN and WV) raised gas taxes in 2017 while Utah modified its gas tax formula to allow for more robust revenue growth. Other states including Colorado, Idaho, New Hampshire, Utah and Wisconsin approved one-time transportation funding. Wyoming, which raised its gas tax in 2013, increased vehicle registration and other fees. Ten states approved new fees for electric and/or hybrid vehicles in 2017. Meanwhile states like California, Oregon and Washington continued their experiments with mileage-based user fees, which some believe could one day replace gas taxes. Will 2018, an election year in most places, continue to see state activity on the state funding front and how will a change in philosophy from Washington influence states?
The Precarious Condition of U.S. Infrastructure
In 2017, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the nation’s infrastructure an overall grade of D+ in their every-four-years Infrastructure Report Card. Key infrastructure categories, including aviation, dams, drinking water, inland waterways, levees, roads and transit, all received individual grades of D or lower. ASCE said the nation’s infrastructure can be improved and restored but only with “strategic, sustained investment, bold leadership, thoughtful planning, and careful preparation for the needs of the future.” The devastating hurricanes of 2017 brought into stark relief the importance of planning and preparation to ensuring a more resilient infrastructure for the future.
Emerging Transportation Technologies and Their Policy Implications
In 2017, 12 states approved self-driving vehicle-related legislation including measures to allow truck platooning, identify an agency to oversee testing and preempt local regulation. As the year wound down, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a streamlined version of policy guidance on automated driving systems and Congress was debating federal legislation that could preempt state authority in some areas. The growing use of drones in a variety of capacities also attracted the interest of states with 23 pieces of legislation enacted in 17 states. Federal drone legislation was also considered in conjunction with a reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration, but Congress ultimately approved just a six-month FAA extension that did not include drone language.