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.

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.

July 1, 2015 marks a big day for the future of transportation funding in a number of states. Six states see their gas tax rates increase today, the result of not only 2015 legislative actions but also actions that took place in previous years as well as automatic increase mechanisms. Meanwhile, Oregon begins a closely watched program that could determine how transportation will be funded in the years ahead. And a number of state legislatures are in the process of completing work on major transportation funding packages as they prepare to adjourn for the year. It all sets the stage for a month in which Congress must come up with a plan to address federal transportation funding before a July 31st deadline.

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.

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.

Michigan voters Tuesday declined to support a ballot measure that would have hiked the state’s general sales tax, fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees to provide funding for dilapidated roads but removed the sales tax on fuel, which currently goes to other purposes. I also have a report from last week’s International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike conference on transportation finance and road usage charging in Portland, Oregon. I’ll bring you up to speed about CSG’s involvement in next week’s Infrastructure Week activities and look ahead to a conference next month highlighting public-private partnerships.

In an ironic twist, state transportation leaders say if you want to help shore up your state’s transportation funding, you’re going to have to hit the road. “You’ve got to take it on the road,” said state Sen. Mike Vehle, chair of South Dakota’s Senate Transportation Committee and co-chair of CSG’s Transportation Public Policy Committee. He was one of the featured speakers on a recent CSG eCademy, “Status of Federal Transportation Programs, State Impacts & Activities.”

In this week’s issue of The Current State, CSG’s weekly e-newsletter, I write about the factors that allowed Georgia and Iowa to be successful this year in passing legislation to fund transportation. Georgia and Iowa are two of the five states that have passed major funding measures so far this year. Iowa Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Tod Bowman and Georgia House Transportation Committee Chairman Jay Roberts told me that gubernatorial leadership, uncertainty about what’s going to happen at the federal level and the lessons of past failures all played a role in their 2015 success. In this unused portion of my interviews with the lawmakers, they also suggest an inclusive process helped pave the way to success. I also have items on Georgia’s new electric vehicle fees and South Dakota’s road to success as well as a look at some key meetings coming up this Spring.

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.

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