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.

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.

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.

Earlier this month, I named “project selection” as one of my Top 5 Transportation Issues for 2015. Just in the first month of this year, we’ve already seen a variety of developments in a number of areas that stand to influence project selection in the years ahead. New governors are already putting their stamp on project selection by reviewing projects approved by their predecessors and by nominating new (or in some cases old) leaders to head state departments of transportation. I also have updates on ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, public transportation projects, autonomous vehicles and state transportation planning processes.

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.

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.

Massachusetts state Sen. Thomas McGee had a cautionary note for attendees at a recent conference in Denver on state transportation funding efforts. “It’s not just about reaching the finish line,” he said at the conference hosted by Transportation for America. “It’s about where you go from there.”

In an era of constrained capital budgets and escalating expenses associated with transportation project construction, policymakers may be tempted to consider only the short-term, upfront costs of those projects with little thought about their future costs. But improving long-term decision making will require planners and policymakers to begin thinking more about maintaining and operating transportation assets over time and factoring the accompanying costs into their planning. This eCademy highlights a new report from the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Eno Center for Transportation, including policy innovations recommended at the federal, state and local levels for expanding the use of life cycle cost analysis to more accurately reflect the actual costs of transportation investments.

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.

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