Sean Slone

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Joung Lee is the Policy Director at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) in Washington, DC. He was among the speakers at a policy roundtable CSG hosted May 12 in Washington as part of the 2015 Transportation Policy Academy. During these portions of his remarks, Lee spoke to state legislators attending the academy about why the federal Highway Trust Fund faces insolvency again this summer and some of the options Congress could consider to address the situation.

Brian Pallasch is the managing director for government relations and infrastructure initiatives at the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in Washington, DC. He was among the presenters at a policy roundtable CSG hosted on May 12 as part of the 2015 Transportation Policy Academy in Washington. During these excerpts from his remarks, he discusses ASCE’s 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, the economic costs of not investing in infrastructure, why ASCE supports an increase in the federal gas tax and a permanent fix for the Highway Trust Fund and why he believes a proposal to eliminate the federal role in transportation is a bad idea.

Maryland Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn was the keynote speaker at the opening dinner of the 2015 CSG Transportation Policy Academy in Washington, DC on May 11. Rahn, who was appointed by Governor Larry Hogan on January 21st of this year, is the first person to lead transportation departments in three different states—New Mexico, Missouri and now Maryland. In these excerpts of his remarks, Rahn touched on hot button topics like Hogan’s reassessment of two light rail projects in the state and recent decision to lower tolls on bridges and roadways in the name of tax relief. He also weighed in on how he thinks Congress might address expiring federal transportation program authorization and the dwindling Highway Trust Fund.

State lawmakers in Nebraska voted last week (May 14) to override the veto of Gov. Pete Ricketts and approve a six-cents-per-gallon gas tax increase. In doing so, Nebraska became the sixth state to approve a gas tax increase for transportation needs this year. That equals the number of states that moved major transportation funding packages in 2013, the most recent big year for such efforts. The news came during Infrastructure Week just as many participants were hearing that Congress is unlikely to follow suit anytime soon to shore up the dwindling Highway Trust Fund and provide any long-term certainty for state transportation officials.

Unless you’re stuck in traffic, without water because of a water main break, hitting a pothole or your power goes out, you probably don’t think all that much about infrastructure. As civil engineers, that’s how we want it. Our goal is for infrastructure to fit seamlessly into your life and enable you to get where you want to go, turn on the lights and brush your teeth. We maintain a network of more than 600,000 bridges across the nation, 50,000 miles of transmission lines and more. However, the current state of our infrastructure is making that seamless maintenance more challenging.

Michigan voters Tuesday declined to support a ballot measure that would have hiked the state’s general sales tax, fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees to provide funding for dilapidated roads but removed the sales tax on fuel, which currently goes to other purposes. I also have a report from last week’s International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike conference on transportation finance and road usage charging in Portland, Oregon. I’ll bring you up to speed about CSG’s involvement in next week’s Infrastructure Week activities and look ahead to a conference next month highlighting public-private partnerships.

As states ponder the future of transportation funding, tolling is playing an increasingly significant role. Tolls are helping states close funding gaps, support capital investment and improve mobility. Developments at the federal and state levels make the trend toward increased tolling likely to continue. But some states have seen pushback against the proliferation of tolls and Texas in particular could face a rocky road ahead as that state tries to deal with increased congestion due to population growth.

In this week’s issue of The Current State, CSG’s weekly e-newsletter, I write about the factors that allowed Georgia and Iowa to be successful this year in passing legislation to fund transportation. Georgia and Iowa are two of the five states that have passed major funding measures so far this year. Iowa Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Tod Bowman and Georgia House Transportation Committee Chairman Jay Roberts told me that gubernatorial leadership, uncertainty about what’s going to happen at the federal level and the lessons of past failures all played a role in their 2015 success. In this unused portion of my interviews with the lawmakers, they also suggest an inclusive process helped pave the way to success. I also have items on Georgia’s new electric vehicle fees and South Dakota’s road to success as well as a look at some key meetings coming up this Spring.

Iowa and Georgia are two of five states where the legislature has approved a major transportation funding package so far this year. Others still could follow suit as the year progresses, but already the number rivals 2013, when six states approved significant funding measures. Idaho became the most recent state to join the club when its legislature approved a transportation funding compromise with a 7 cents per gallon gas tax increase just before adjourning for the year on April 11. South Dakota and Utah also raised their gas taxes this year.

This summer the Oregon Department of Transportation begins a program under which 5,000 volunteer drivers will pay a mileage-based road usage charge. It’s just the latest step for Oregon, which has been a pioneer of mileage-based fees over the last decade. But Oregon is far from alone in testing and exploring such fees. Other states have conducted tests of their own, adopted mileage-based user fee-related legislation and participated in multi-state coalitions to explore the concept.

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