In case you missed it, I have a new Capitol Research brief out this week on the role of Metropolitan Planning Organizations in transportation planning. That makes it as good a time as any to catch up on a number of recent stories at the intersection of planning and project selection (project selection was one of my Top 5 Issues for 2015, regular readers will recall). I have items on a recent report on congestion and mobility around the nation’s cities, light rail and streetcar projects around the country, the ongoing debate about building new roads versus fixing old ones, how one state is seeking to prioritize transportation projects based on return on investment, and how the preferences of millennials are likely to shape transportation in the years ahead. 

With August drawing to a close, it’s time to check in once again on what states are up to on the transportation funding front. The number of states to increase their gas taxes this year now stands at seven with the addition of Washington State last month. Other states could be poised to join their ranks in the months ahead. Here’s a roundup of some of the latest developments and links where you can read more.

The city of Denver and state of Colorado have seen their share of transportation successes in recent years thanks in large measure to regional cooperation, federal investment, a 2004 tax increase, partnerships with the private sector and some innovative thinking. But the city and state face numerous challenges in the years ahead that will severely test the transportation system, notably a burgeoning population, stagnant federal investment and limits to increasing taxes at the state level. Those were some of the messages state and local officials delivered to a group of state legislators from eight states at the CSG West Transportation Forum last month in Denver.

Congress voted last week to approve a three-month extension of spending authority for federal surface transportation programs that also replenishes the Highway Trust Fund through mid-December with an $8 billion cash infusion. Despite averting a July 31 deadline after which the U.S. Department of Transportation had said it would stop authorizing payments to states for work on transportation projects, lawmakers failed to come up with a longer-term solution before the start of their August recess. Further negotiations will have to be postponed until the fall, leaving states in the same uncertain position they’ve been in for much of the past six years.

Eight state legislators from around the country, many of them transportation committee chairs or vice chairs in their respective states, attended the 5th Annual CSG Transportation Leaders Policy Academy May 11-13, 2015 in Washington, D.C. The academy, which took place during Infrastructure Week, included a tour of transportation projects in Northern Virginia, a keynote address by Maryland Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn, a luncheon at the D.C. office of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), a standing-room-only briefing for Capitol Hill staffers on the importance of continuing federal transportation investment to state and local officials, a conversation with officials at the U.S. Department of Transportation, a dinner with representatives of two of the largest transportation-related membership associations—the American Road & Transportation Builders Association and the American Public Transportation Association and a briefing on the status of state exploration of mileage-based user fees. Attendees also took part in a transportation policy roundtable with representatives of ASCE, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Transportation for America, the Eno Center for Transportation, the American Trucking Associations and UPS. Finally, the legislators were able to take part in Infrastructure Week activities including Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill. This page includes photos from the three-day academy, the complete agenda for the event and links to web pages where you can read extended excerpts of remarks from many of the speakers.

A bipartisan group of senators this week introduced a six-year transportation authorization bill that proposes to increase highway spending by almost 13 percent and spread more than $2 billion a year among states to invest in freight facility improvements. But with a July 31 deadline fast approaching, Congress is still at a loss when it comes to how they might pay for such a bill.

James Corless is the Director of Transportation for America (T4America). Jeff Davis and Emil Frankel are Senior Fellows at the Eno Center for Transportation. All three were panelists at a May 12 transportation policy roundtable as part of the 2015 CSG Transportation Policy Academy. In these excerpted portions of their remarks to state legislators attending the academy, they discuss the past, present and future of the federal-state-local partnership on transportation.

Janet Kavinoky is the Executive Director for Transportation and Infrastructure at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, DC and Vice President of the Americans for Transportation Mobility Coalition. Pat Thomas is Vice President of Global Public Affairs for UPS and currently serves as First Vice Chairman at the American Trucking Associations. Both were speakers at a transportation policy roundtable May 12 in Washington as part of the 2015 CSG Transportation Policy Academy. In these excerpted portions of their remarks to state legislators attending the academy, they spoke about why both of their organizations support a federal gas tax increase, why Congress hasn’t been able to reach agreement on a plan to meet the nation’s infrastructure investment needs, what it may take to convince them to do so and how predicted changes ahead for freight transportation makes a national focus on the issue imperative.

Joung Lee is the Policy Director at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) in Washington, DC. He was among the speakers at a policy roundtable CSG hosted May 12 in Washington as part of the 2015 Transportation Policy Academy. During these portions of his remarks, Lee spoke to state legislators attending the academy about why the federal Highway Trust Fund faces insolvency again this summer and some of the options Congress could consider to address the situation.

Brian Pallasch is the managing director for government relations and infrastructure initiatives at the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in Washington, DC. He was among the presenters at a policy roundtable CSG hosted on May 12 as part of the 2015 Transportation Policy Academy in Washington. During these excerpts from his remarks, he discusses ASCE’s 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, the economic costs of not investing in infrastructure, why ASCE supports an increase in the federal gas tax and a permanent fix for the Highway Trust Fund and why he believes a proposal to eliminate the federal role in transportation is a bad idea.