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.

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.

As Congress struggles to come up with the kind of multi-year transportation authorization bill that was once customary and with the idea of a federal gas tax increase to pay for it still divisive despite low oil prices, one revenue mechanism that has long been considered a possible replacement for the gas tax is expected to have a pivotal year: the mileage based user fee (MBUF) aka vehicle miles traveled (VMT) fee/tax aka road usage charge. But some wonder whether the mechanism can ever truly become what transportation policy experts originally expected and whether its adoption will be derailed by privacy concerns that some say are largely unfounded. Those were some of the issues on the minds of speakers at last week’s Transportation Research Board (TRB) annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Voters in several states will consider the fate of transportation-related ballot measures in next week’s election. I have a refresher on the statewide measures in play as well as some local and county ballot measures to watch. Plus a number of items on how transportation is playing as an issue in a number of fall campaigns and how it could be on the agenda for state legislatures next year. As always, I also have my regular roundup of items on the future of the federal transportation program, state transportation funding efforts, public-private partnerships and tolling and state multi-modal strategies.

The operator of the Indiana Toll Road announced this month it would seek bankruptcy protection with a creditor-supported restructuring plan. While the toll road was one of the first transportation public-private partnerships (P3s) in this country, it hasn’t really proven to be the model for other P3s as some believed it would. And, at least for now, it appears the bankruptcy will have little impact either on motorists who use the facility or on the burgeoning P3 industry in the United States. I also have a roundup of recent reports from the American Society of Civil Engineers and Eno Center for Transportation, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. Plus the usual collection of links on MAP-21 reauthorization, the future of the Highway Trust Fund, state transportation funding initiatives, P3s and tolling and state multi-modal strategies.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden said this week his panel is hard at work considering options for saving the Highway Trust Fund from pending insolvency and he hopes to pass a bill out of the committee before the Senate adjourns for its July 4 recess. But the Senate is unlikely to consider a House Republican plan that would rely on savings from changes at the U.S. Postal Service, which continued to receive skepticism this week. And the closing of a bridge along a major artery in Delaware this week demonstrates what’s at stake in trying to find ways to invest in the nation’s infrastructure. I also have the usual round-up of links to items on MAP-21 reauthorization and the future of the Highway Trust Fund, state activity on transportation revenues, public-private partnerships and tolling and state multi-modal strategies. 

New Hampshire’s first gas tax increase in more than 20 years won final approval in the state legislature this week. Meanwhile, the defeat of a ballot measure to increase sales taxes and enact a car tab fee to fund transit service in Seattle’s King County means residents will see cuts in bus service hours just as ridership is on the rise. Plus, just as the Highway Trust Fund gets ready to run dry, there are renewed concerns about the condition of bridges in the United States. I also have the usual updates and links to items on MAP-21 reauthorization and the future of the Highway Trust Fund, state activity on transportation revenues, public-private partnerships and tolling, and state multi-modal strategies. And I have news about a worthwhile conference you’ll want to add to your summer travels.

The House Budget Committee this week passed a budget resolution that could leave the Highway Trust Fund—and states—in the lurch. I also have the usual updates on MAP-21 reauthorization, state transportation funding activities, public-private partnerships and tolling and state multi-modal strategies.

The final speaker at CSG’s Transportation Policy Academy in Portland, Oregon was someone who knows that city well. Bob Stacey is a member of the Portland Metro Council representing District 6. He previously served as Planning Director for the City of Portland, Senior Policy Advisor to Oregon Gov. Barbara Roberts, Executive Director for Policy and Planning at the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet), Chief of Staff to Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), and Executive Director of 1000 Friends of Oregon. Stacey spoke about the federal-state-local partnership on transportation, why the partnership isn’t working very well right now and how a metropolitan strategy might help redefine it.

Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) Commissioner Charles Zelle has long been thinking about his state’s transportation future and is now the man in charge of making the case for additional investment to the public and policymakers. The longtime bus company executive, who was appointed commissioner by Gov. Mark Dayton last year and began work in January, is a veteran of two panels that in recent years sought to lay out a long-term transportation vision for the state (the most recent panel’s work is detailed in my recent Capitol Research brief “Transportation Funding Commissions II.”) Zelle spoke about those experiences, his new mission and the state’s transportation challenges during a public policy roundtable July 15th at the CSG Midwest Annual Conference in St. Paul. He also responded to questions from Midwestern state legislators who took part in the discussion.

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