Even as programs that fund bike and pedestrian infrastructure such as Safe Routes to School, Complete Streets and Transportation Enhancements have been targeted for elimination at the federal level, states and localities are demonstrating a continued commitment to them, reflecting the public's desire to have transportation options, leisure opportunities and communities that are healthier and safer. But the infrastructure needs are great, the funding is insufficient and projects are being increasingly scrutinized. 

There was a lot of Capitol Hill activity this week on federal surface transportation authorization legislation, despite the dire predictions from some last week at the Transportation Research Board meeting (that I report about in the latest Capitol Ideas E-Newsletter) that it’s unlikely to amount to much given the politics, Congressional schedule and wide disparity between House and Senate legislation. Here’s a roundup of what’s happened this week.

The U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Wednesday voted unanimously to move forward a bipartisan transportation authorization bill known by the acronym MAP-21. In the latest issue of CSG’s Capitol Ideas E-Newsletter I look at why there may still be a long road ahead before legislation is signed into law. Here is some additional analysis of the bill and its prospects. I also have updates on the potential for a gas tax increase in Iowa and the future of tolling in Washington State.

Transportation Demand Management incorporates various policy strategies to reduce traffic congestion by shifting transportation away from single-occupancy vehicles, shifting travel out of peak periods or shifting it to less congested roads or modes of transportation. Though many states have successful transportation demand management programs, the future of these programs may be in jeopardy unless dedicated funding for them can be found and unless state agencies continue to demonstrate their value in addressing policy objectives like congestion reduction and air quality improvement.

The chances that the federal gas tax, which is set to expire Sept. 30, could be extended improved a bit this week as Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, announced he won’t oppose an extension. Also this week, New York’s Governor gives a boost to bike and pedestrian infrastructure, Georgia prepares for next year’s regional referenda on transportation project funding, and Seattle gives a thumbs up to a tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Plus, items of note on transportation spending as stimulus, tolling and public-private partnerships, high-speed rail, public transportation, the 2012 presidential election and mileage-based user fees.

The Carnegie Endowment’s Leadership Initiative on Transportation Solvency has a new report out this month that suggests a five percent ad valorem tax on oil up-stream and gas downstream could help cover the cost of transportation in the United States. Meanwhile, reaction to the transportation authorization proposal offered last week by House Republicans continued to pour in this week from transportation stakeholders and other interested observers. Plus there is news this week on Georgia’s regional transportation referendum and an anti-toll initiative in Washington state. And the first post-moratorium public-private partnership transportation project in Texas has attracted a lengthy list of potential suitors.

While not a new concept in the public policy lexicon, transit-oriented development is receiving renewed attention as some states and communities ponder a future that may include high-speed rail. States have a vested interest in ensuring that huge investments in rail and transit systems pay off not only in improving transportation but also in creating economic development and helping to bring about healthier, more environmentally friendly and sustainable communities around transit stations. Fortunately, a number of states already have years of experience in using public policy to shape how this development takes place.