We have several new transportation-related publications here in the Knowledge Center this month. Here are a few updates and additional resources on the topics they address.

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently made more than $470 million in unspent funds for transportation projects immediately available to states. The money comes from funds initially allocated for 671 earmarked projects in appropriations bills between 2003 and 2006 that are now either dead or delayed. While the rescissions could give states greater flexibility to use those funds, they could provide additional challenges for states hoping to jump-start their moribund projects.

Finance at the state and federal levels and alternatives to the gas tax are two major topics in the transportation discussion. In addition, as high-speed rail is put on the backburner elsewhere, the dream is still alive in California. This session focused on how infrastruture investment can impact the road construction industry and a company like UPS. Speakers also discussed what California has planned in high-speed rail and what it could mean for the rest of the country.

The U.S. Senate Wednesday passed a long-awaited, 18-month, bipartisan, $109 billion bill to authorize federal surface transportation programs on a vote of 74 to 22. Attention now turns to the House, where leaders could decide to take up the Senate measure or seek to resurrect their own five-year, $260 billion plan that has so far failed to win the same level of support. Meanwhile the March 31st deadline when the latest SAFETEA-LU extension expires looms large and many believe another short-term extension will be needed to give time for the House to act and for lawmakers to work out details of a final bill. But, as U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told a Congressional committee today, that scenario is complicated by the start of the road construction season when states must have some certainty that the money will be there to pay road contractors over the next several months and beyond. Still, despite the challenges ahead and the Senate bill’s shortcomings, many are praising both its passage and its provisions, many of which could have a huge impact for state governments for years to come. Here are some notable elements of the legislation.

Gas and sales tax increases, state infrastructure banks, public-private partnerships and state lotteries are among the ideas being floated in state capitals around the country to help meet infrastructure needs. Here are a few updates from the last couple of weeks on how those ideas are faring.

On the day President Obama’s 2013 budget proposal was released and as Congress prepares to debate two competing surface transportation authorization bills this week, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood used a conference call budget briefing to both highlight the President’s own authorization proposal and to restate the administration’s preference between House and Senate authorization proposals.

In another busy week for transportation funding initiatives in state capitals, some advanced while others experienced setbacks. Here’s a roundup of what happened in 10 states.

As 2012 dawns, there is still no agreement on new legislation to authorize federal surface  transportation programs, and much of the transportation funding states received from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is gone. While some state and territorial governments (“the states”) have used this time of uncertainty at the federal level to move forward on their own to creatively fund infrastructure improvements, others appear to be hunkering down, making the decision to do only maintenance on existing facilities and hoping they can ride out the lack of revenues, shaky economy and growing infrastructure needs until better times are upon us. Here are the top five issues in transportation for 2012.

As 2012 dawns, there is still no agreement on new legislation to authorize federal surface transportation programs. The previous legislation, known as SAFETEA-LU, officially expired in 2009 and the programs have been operating under a series of temporary extensions since then, the latest of which expires at the end of March. The primary cause of the delay in approving a SAFETEA-LU successor is of course money. The federal gas tax in recent years has not produced the kinds of revenues it once did and faces an unsustainable future. The Highway Trust Fund, which relies on the gas tax, has required frequent infusions of cash to continue programs. Yet the still struggling economy and other factors have made efforts to seek new revenues to fund transportation politically impossible. While some state governments have used this time of uncertainty at the federal level to move forward on their own to creatively fund infrastructure improvements, others appear to be hunkering down, making the decision to do only maintenance on existing facilities and hoping they can ride out the lack of revenues, shaky economy and growing infrastructure needs until better times are upon us. Here is my expanded list of the top five issues in transportation for 2012.

Last week I blogged about 13 states to watch in 2012 on transportation funding. Here are a couple more it might be worth adding to the list, plus updates on some of my original 13.

 

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