While infrastructure investment was a major focus of Infrastructure Week 2017 activities in Washington, D.C., transportation stakeholders were also busy examining the profound effect autonomous and connected vehicles could have in a variety of areas in the decades to come. At two forums, one on May 16 and the other on May 19, much of the discussion was about the roles federal, state, local and regional policymakers should play in regulating and shaping these technologies so that society can benefit from their potential and mitigate some of their more negative consequences.
Congress approved legislation in 2012 known as Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, or MAP-21, that not only provided two years of funding for transportation programs and a variety of policy changes after nearly three years of short-term extensions but also set in motion a process that continues today, even after minor tweaks were made in 2015’s five-year Fixing America’s Surface Transportation, or FAST, Act. States and planning organizations have been working with the Federal Highway Administration, or FHWA, to implement a performance-based approach to the federal highway program.
Last December, I compiled my annual list of the states to watch on transportation funding. Last month we followed that up with a CSG eCademy webinar featuring Alison Premo Black of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association and reporters from three key states. With legislative sessions well underway in many places, it’s time to see where things stand in the debates about transportation funding going on around the country.
Issue: States are seeking to change how transportation projects are selected by making project selection less political, determining which ones could have the best return on investment, factoring in long-term costs and reconsidering some long-planned projects that may no longer make sense in the modern age. Increasingly facing limited resources, they likely will need to do more of that in the future.
Issue: After years of saying they were still years away, autonomous vehicles and other technologies are here—or nearly here (at least to some degree). Uber has a fleet of autonomous vehicles in Pittsburgh. Uber’s self-driving truck company, Otto, recently delivered a truck full of beer in Colorado. So now the question becomes how will state governments respond and how will they need to respond? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued guidelines last summer for states to consider in drafting autonomous vehicle legislation. But in trying to encourage the development of these technologies and perhaps reap an economic windfall, states will need to guard against doing more harm than good through legislation and regulation.
Issue: During the campaign, Donald Trump called for a $1 trillion package to invest in the nation’s infrastructure. But the devil likely will be in the details for both Republicans and Democrats when it comes to funding the plan and deciding what to fund. Beyond any one-time infrastructure investment in 2017 though, will Congress be able to hit the ground running so they can be ready when it comes time to reauthorize the FAST Act transportation authorization bill in 2020?
Issue: The 2016 election saw the passage of ballot measures to enable new transit investments in Atlanta, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Seattle. But in Washington, D.C. and other cities, years of neglect of transit systems are burdening public officials with funding, safety and service challenges. Meanwhile, ride-hailing services are continuing to evolve to fill increasingly essential roles. As governments look to provide and enable all these mobility options, how do they ensure that successful communities are built around transit, that housing remains affordable and that those communities work for all their residents?
Issue: State transportation funding efforts could be back in the spotlight in 2017. The list of those that could tackle transportation revenues includes as many as 16 states. Some have been at this for several years and haven’t achieved success due to political challenges. Some have had a task force or special commission in place in 2016 to come up with funding ideas. Plenty of old ideas (gas taxes, registration fees, tolls) are likely to be considered. But mileage-based user fees and other innovations are likely to get a look as well.
After a year in 2015 when eight states raised gas taxes, 2016 saw less activity. New Jersey raised its gas tax by 23 cents and Rhode Island funded a multi-year bridge repair program with a new toll on large commercial trucks and a combination of borrowing and refinancing. But other than those states and a couple of others that approved bond measures for infrastructure projects and the like, most postponed or agreed to extend their transportation revenue discussions into 2017. That means a large number of states could see activity next year on that front. While some have been embroiled in the funding debate for months or years and will continue those conversations, others had a special task force in 2016 to explore revenue ideas and could look to move those ideas forward during the 2017 legislative sessions. Here’s a list of the 14 most likely candidates.
Donald Trump’s surprising win wasn’t the only big story to emerge on Election Day. Voters also had the opportunity to weigh in on a number of important transportation-related ballot measures around the country. Here’s a look at how they fared and an extensive collection of links where you can read more about those measures and the impacts of other election results.