The future of transportation was very much on the minds of participants at the annual meeting of the Southern Legislative Conference held earlier this month in Charleston, South Carolina. The role of transportation in economic development, the status of a new federal highway bill, statefunding of infrastructure improvements and efforts to prepare southern ports for the expansion of the Panama Canal all received attention from various speakers over the course of the five-day meeting. Here is just some of what I heard on those topics.
Last week I had the pleasure to speak at a conference on sustainable transportation hosted by the organization Women in Government in Newport, Rhode Island. Thirty-two state legislators representing 20 states attended the forum and heard from a number of distinguished experts on such topics as federal and state transportation funding, complete streets programs, commuter transportation, community design and integrating transportation networks to improve mobility and spur economic development. Here’s a rundown of what participants heard at the conference along with some links to resources that may be useful in setting your state’s sustainable transportation goals.
Twenty-six states and Puerto Rico have laws allowing public-private partnerships in transportation. While they can have significant benefits for states, questions remain about their suitability in some cases and the availability of private capital.
The interconnectedness of the nation’s transportation system and the needs of that system are put into sharp focus when one considers what our shipping ports and highways may look like after 2014. That’s when the $5.2 billion expansion of the Panama Canal is expected to be complete.
Despite increased ridership, clear benefits to the environment and traffic congestion mitigation, public transportation continues to face financial struggles and cuts. But some states are turning to alternative financing mechanisms to fund it.
Last week, I spoke with Mike Chalmers of USA Today for an article that ran in Wednesday's paper about states seeking alternatives to roadside memorials. Chalmers wrote about how Delaware has a memorial garden at a state rest area that provides a safe and tasteful alternative to the makeshift roadside memorials that honor victims of fatal traffic accidents but that sometimes pose safety hazards themselves. I told Chalmers that states will likely look to duplicate what Delaware is doing because it provides a sensible solution to what has proven to be a difficult balancing act for states.
As state governments are faced with major infrastructure needs and declining tax revenues, many are searching for new revenue options to fund transportation improvements. But the lack of consensus about the viability of those options and uncertainty about federal programs has left states trying to plug holes temporarily.
This session offered both a federal and a state perspective on transportation finance and budgeting. Speakers from the U.S. Department of Transportation and New York State’s Department of Transportation took part in the forum. Jack Wells, Chief Economist for U.S. DOT, discussed America’s infrastructure needs, federal transportation programs, and what’s ahead for reauthorization and transportation finance. Stanley Gee, Acting Commissioner of the New York State DOT, gave an overview of his state’s transportation system, spoke about the current budget crisis and transportation funding crisis in the state, and discussed the painful choices being made in his department.