Sean Slone

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With nearly a month gone in 2015, it’s time once again to check in on states that are considering their transportation funding options this year. Governors are using their State of the State addresses to establish finding funding solutions as a priority and lawmakers are moving forward with plans of their own as legislative sessions get underway in many states. I have a look at what’s happening in 16 states, some additional resources where you can read more and a few words about how you can join us for an upcoming discussion on what’s going on around the country.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx began his speech at last week’s Transportation Research Board—commonly called TRB—meeting by showing a clip from “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” The one where Indiana Jones snatches the golden idol, but in the process triggers a chain reaction of crumbling walls, rolling boulders and other defense mechanisms. His point? “We’ve been moving from crisis to crisis,” he said. “I’ve been in this role for 18 months and over the course of that 18 months, we’ve had sequestration budgets that have constrained us, a shutdown that stopped us and a highway cliff—part one—that threatened to really stop work in states all across America. And even as we sit here today, we know that in a few short months—May 31 to be exact—we may be facing part two of the highway cliff.”

As Congress struggles to come up with the kind of multi-year transportation authorization bill that was once customary and with the idea of a federal gas tax increase to pay for it still divisive despite low oil prices, one revenue mechanism that has long been considered a possible replacement for the gas tax is expected to have a pivotal year: the mileage based user fee (MBUF) aka vehicle miles traveled (VMT) fee/tax aka road usage charge. But some wonder whether the mechanism can ever truly become what transportation policy experts originally expected and whether its adoption will be derailed by privacy concerns that some say are largely unfounded. Those were some of the issues on the minds of speakers at last week’s Transportation Research Board (TRB) annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Sean Slone, Program Manager for Transportation Policy, outlines the top five issues in transportation policy for 2015, including uncertain federal funding, alternative funding mechanisms such as public-private partnerships and tolling, and the ways infrastructure spending contribute to workforce development and growing the nation's economy.

A new Congress this year could decide the long-term future of federal surface transportation programs after years of uncertainty that have had a huge impact for states and their planning processes. Meanwhile, 2015 could bring significant activity in state capitals on transportation funding initiatives. Public-private partnerships and tolling seem likely to continue their evolution after what was a pivotal year in 2014. With transportation funding scarce, the process of planning and approving transportation projects is under new scrutiny as well and appears likely to be influenced by a growing number of new metrics and methodologies, technological, demographic and lifestyle changes, and other factors. The struggles to increase transportation investment at the federal and state levels continue despite what appears to be solid evidence of the job creation and economic growth potential of investment, as evidenced by the actions of some of America’s biggest economic competitors. Here’s my expanded article on the top 5 issues in transportation for 2015 and a selection of additional CSG and non-CSG resources where you can read more.

State lawmakers from nine states attended the CSG Policy Academy on Electric and Alternative Fuel Vehicles August 7-8, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. The group heard how state and local government programs in the area are encouraging the proliferation of such vehicles. Representatives of the automotive industry and energy sector also took part in the event. Speakers also discussed California’s unique legislative landscape and policy efforts to encourage ultra-low carbon transportation. Finally, attendees got a chance to see electric vehicle charging infrastructure and other sustainable transportation programs in the Seattle region. This meeting archive includes PowerPoint presentations from several policy academy speakers, photos from the event and additional resources and links for further reading.

Two new reports and a variety of recent developments in states lay bare the challenges of relying on the gas tax as a revenue source to meet transportation needs. I also have updates on some of my “States to Watch in 2015” and the usual roundup of recent items on MAP-21 reauthorization, public-private-partnerships and tolling, and state multi-modal activities.

Following the deluge of major transportation funding packages passed by states in 2013, elections and other factors combined to make 2014 a somewhat quieter year on that front. But as 2015 legislative sessions approach, a large number of states appear poised to tackle transportation funding. While some states are holdovers from years past as a result of previously unsuccessful efforts, there are also a handful of relative newcomers to the list this year. Their reasons for addressing the issue now and the urgency with which they are approaching it may vary, but there are plenty of common justifications and common solutions that already appear to be emerging.

From key changes in Congress and state capitols to statewide and local ballot measures, Tuesday was a pivotal Election Day when it comes to transportation. I have some thoughts on the significance of this year’s batch of state and local ballot measures, a roundup of all the results, and links to information about the potential impact of the changes on Capitol Hill, in governor’s mansions and elsewhere. Plus, as always, news, links and new reports on MAP-21 reauthorization and the future of the Highway Trust Fund, state transportation funding activities, public-private partnerships and tolling, and state multi-modal strategies.

Voters in several states will consider the fate of transportation-related ballot measures in next week’s election. I have a refresher on the statewide measures in play as well as some local and county ballot measures to watch. Plus a number of items on how transportation is playing as an issue in a number of fall campaigns and how it could be on the agenda for state legislatures next year. As always, I also have my regular roundup of items on the future of the federal transportation program, state transportation funding efforts, public-private partnerships and tolling and state multi-modal strategies.

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