Sean Slone

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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.

February and March were busy months for state legislatures on the transportation front with four states approving major funding packages, several considering measures to revise gas tax indexing mechanisms to avoid losing transportation revenues in the wake of declining gas prices, and a whole host of other states continuing to contemplate or negotiate additional legislation that could bear fruit down the road. Here’s a roundup of the developments since my previous post on this topic.

In the March/April issue of Capitol Ideas, I wrote about how the state of Utah has used transportation investment to drive the state’s economic growth. Among those I talked with were two legislators—one a civil engineer, the other an economist—as well as a planning official for the Utah Department of Transportation. But there is plenty more to the story of Utah’s success as I learned in this February interview with Abby Albrecht of the Utah Transportation Coalition, which arrived too late to be included in the published article. The coalition is an organization formed by the Utah League of Cities and Towns, the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce and the Utah Association of Counties.

Most states have created dedicated trust funds to support transportation. Some have constitutional restrictions on how the revenues in those funds can be spent. Others simply have restrictions codified in statute that haven’t always been effective in preventing the diversion of revenues to other budget areas. Maryland and Wisconsin are the two newest states with constitutional protections for their transportation trust funds. Additional states could follow suit, but despite their real or perceived benefits, such protections are unlikely to have much impact on struggling state transportation budgets.

Earlier this year, I named “project selection” one of my top 5 issues in transportation for 2015. From light rail and streetcar projects to efforts to reform planning processes to the costs of highway construction to the potential impacts of such factors as millennial preferences and autonomous vehicles, project selection is being pondered and debated in every state and community around the country. I have updates on what’s been happening this year in 21 states and the District of Columbia as well as links to recent reports on transportation spending limitations, performance measurement, Complete Streets policies, commuter and job growth trends and the future of cars.

More than a dozen state legislatures appear poised to consider gas tax increases this year, but Michigan will take a path less traveled when voters go to the polls May 5 to consider a complicated ballot measure that would provide an extra $1.2 billion a year for state roads.

A gas tax increase appears on the fast track to final passage in Iowa. Transportation funding measures in Georgia and Washington also moved forward this week. And governors, state DOT officials and legislators in a variety of other states introduced or defended major transportation packages as the funding conversation heated up in those states. Here’s a roundup of the latest developments.

This week, an update on more than 20 states looking at transportation funding this year. Per-gallon gas tax increases, indexing, sales taxes, tax swaps, motor vehicle excise taxes, vehicle registration fees, transportation fund lockboxes and bonding are among the issues factoring into the discussions around the country. I also have information about how you can join us for our latest eCademy webinar this week on the states to watch on transportation funding.

We got a look this week at the Obama administration’s vision for transportation with the release of the President’s budget and authorization proposal and a new report looking at trends impacting the nation’s transportation system and the implications of those trends over the next 30 years. Meanwhile, Congress has begun looking at options for how to fund a longer term transportation bill with the debate appearing to coalesce around three possibilities. Nevertheless, state officials around the country remain concerned about the impact ongoing federal uncertainty is having on their ability to plan for the all-important transportation project construction season.

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