“Armageddon on Colorado ballots” proclaimed the colorful headline of a Denver Post editorial this week. The doomsday concern is in reference to three ballot measures Colorado voters will consider this November that may be reflective of the anti-tax, anti-spending, anti-borrowing, anti-big government sentiments among the electorate this fall but that could go a long way in determining whether the state has any money in the future to do important things like build and maintain roads.

This month’s Government Accountability Office update on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has 284 pages worth of fodder for both fans and foes of the legislation. But while it has been the speed with which states have spent Recovery Act highway dollars and the overall job creation numbers to date that have gotten most of the attention, it’s a couple of other findings in the report that should also prompt concern.

More evidence this week that renewed investment in the nation’s transportation system is needed--and soon: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released their first-ever Transportation Performance Index, which shows that the performance of the system is not keeping pace with the rate of growth of demands on it. Meanwhile, two states got very different kinds of news about the challenges they face in upgrading that system.

With 45 percent of roads in less than good condition and 12 percent of bridges structurally deficient, the U.S. faces severe infrastructure needs that significantly impact the nation's economy. State governments face huge gaps between how much they need to spend to repair roads in the coming years and how much they expect to have under current funding. While there are some state success stories, the infrastructure in other states is in danger of backsliding. This brief makes the case for encouraging Congress to consider legislation reauthorizing federal transportation programs soon and for taking steps to ensure infrastructure improvements are adequately funded.

Twenty-six states and Puerto Rico have laws allowing public-private partnerships in transportation. While they can have significant benefits for states, questions remain about their suitability in some cases and the availability of private capital.

This session offered both a federal and a state perspective on transportation finance and budgeting. Speakers from the U.S. Department of Transportation and New York State’s Department of Transportation took part in the forum. Jack Wells, Chief Economist for U.S. DOT, discussed America’s infrastructure needs, federal transportation programs, and what’s ahead for reauthorization and transportation finance. Stanley Gee, Acting Commissioner of the New York State DOT, gave an overview of his state’s transportation system, spoke about the current budget crisis and transportation funding crisis in the state, and discussed the painful choices being made in his department.

E-newsletter Issue #47 | May 27, 2010


Facing budget cuts and dwindling funds to build roads and bridges, the New York State Department of Transportation was forced to close a bridge in the North Country, one that connects New York and Vermont.  The old bridge in the Adirondacks was no longer safe for travel.

More than a year in the works, this report looks back on the implementation of the highway spending in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. It examines how states were able to successfully meet deadlines, fund road projects that made an impact on job creation and the nation’s infrastructure, and put in place unprecedented transparency and accountability measures. Included are interviews with state stimulus czars, state transportation officials and others who were on the front lines of the implementation process. The report also includes a series of charts that show where every state stood at various points in the process. The report received funding from CSG’s 21st Century Foundation. It can be read online at http://www.csg.org/policy/documents/Shovel_Ready_Projects.pdf


It’s been one year since President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Charging motorists on a per mile basis has gained some traction in recent years as a potential revenue mechanism to replace state and federal fuel taxes. Pilot projects to test VMT systems in many states are helping to define how they would work.

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