Sean Slone

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On page 723 of the $305 billion, five-year federal surface transportation legislation approved by Congress last year is a $95 million grant program that some believe could help determine whether there will ever be another long-term transportation bill and that appears likely to put states at the forefront of determining the future of transportation funding. Section 6020 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation--or FAST--Act requires the U.S. secretary of transportation to set up a program to “provide grants to states to demonstrate user-based alternative revenue mechanisms that utilize a user fee structure to maintain the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund.” Although the language was left intentionally vague, the program is being viewed as a way to further explore the possibilities of the mileage-based user fee concept being pioneered by Oregon and other states.

Democratic leaders in the Maryland General Assembly have introduced legislation (SB 908) being viewed as an effort to restrict the power of the governor to decide which transportation projects to fund. The legislation comes in the wake of Gov. Larry Hogan’s decision last summer to cancel a long-in-the-works plan for a light rail project in Baltimore. But Maryland may also be looking to follow in the footsteps of several states, including neighboring Virginia, that have taken a close look at their project selection processes in recent years as a means to increase transparency, improve accountability and shore up the public trust that scarce transportation dollars are being spent wisely.

The arrest of an Uber driver in connection with a shooting spree in Kalamazoo, Michigan last weekend has brought renewed focus to the rigor with which rideshare companies conduct background checks of their drivers. State and local governments have been looking at the background check issue in a number of ways as part of rideshare-related legislation over the past year. Here’s a primer.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo last week signed legislation to fund a multi-year bridge repair program with a new toll on large commercial trucks and a combination of borrowing and refinancing. Rhode Island, which ranks 50th out of 50 states in overall bridge conditions, has been one of the only northeast states that does not charge  commercial trucks a user fee. There is also a variety of other tolling-related news from around the country as well as updates on the states to watch on transportation funding this year. Plus details on how you can join us for next week’s CSG eCademy webinar on the subject.

Efforts around the country to revitalize downtowns and create economically vital and aesthetically pleasing communities, often centered on transit hubs, have created a greater need for a private-public entity that can manage these areas to ensure their long-term sustainability. While most states have laws on the books to enable these special districts, some experts say they are still too difficult to establish and that some of the decades-old laws may need to evolve to reflect the expanding mission of these districts and the changing nature of the communities they serve.

With the melting of the last remnants of snow from Winter Storm Jonas and another major winter storm set to impact millions of Americans in the southern Rockies, central plains and western Great Lakes this week, it seems as good a time as any to check in on how states are dealing with winter weather transportation concerns so far this season. There are numerous examples of states turning to technology, investing in equipment and trying to improve on past performance. Here’s a roundup.

With the passage of the FAST Act by Congress in late 2015, states have some of the long-term certainty they have long sought in the federal transportation program. But can a mostly status quo, five-year transportation bill help states make up for years of inadequate investment in the nation's infrastructure. More than likely, more than a few will still feel compelled to follow in the footsteps of eight states that raised gas taxes in 2015. Some may also turn to tolling and public-private partnerships to help fund projects, although those tools in the toolbox have seen increasing scrutiny and criticism in some parts of the country. State officials face a variety of other challenges as well including how to plan for the technological and demographic changes that could radically alter the transportation landscape in the years ahead and how to deploy and enhance the kinds of transportation options that will make communities into livable, sustainable, economically vital places. Here are my top five transportation issues for 2016 along with more than 500 links to resources from CSG and a variety of other sources where you can read more.

CSG Director of Transportation and Infrastructure Policy Sean Slone outlines the top five issues in transportation policy for 2016, including federal funding uncertainty and underinvestment in infrastructure, transportation revenue options, tolling and public-private partnerships, and public transit challenges.  

Across the country, transportation options are being deployed to revitalize cities and suburbs, revive sluggish economies and change the way we live and work. In particular, transit stops have become a focal point for many states and communities hoping to generate the development of office, retail and commercial spaces and flourishing, sustainable neighborhoods around them.

Facing continuing uncertainty with regards to federal funding, Tennessee and other states have postponed millions of dollars in transportation projects. But even as a gas tax increase has become a political third rail in Washington, many states have turned to the venerable transportation revenue mechanism this year to advance their transportation programs. This session highlighted both the impact of federal uncertainty and the successes of those states that passed gas tax increases in 2015.

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