Mobility and Access

Before I depart for the holidays, I thought I would leave you transportation policy fans with a few things to read on those iPads and Kindle Fires you may find under the tree Sunday morning. In what has become an annual tradition, it’s time to clear out the CSG Transportation inbox so we can start fresh in the New Year. There are lots of items below on many of the issues we cover regularly here on the blog including: state...

The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee this week passed a bill that would update federal freight transportation policy. Also, the latest round of TIGER grant recipients announced this week includes a number of projects to improve freight facilities around the country. But those two stories are just the tip of the iceberg as far as freight transportation is concerned. As a follow-up to our recent Capitol Research brief on how states are “Developing Freight Transportation Alternatives,” here’s a round-up of some recent freight news.

I blogged previously about last week’s National Transportation Policy Summit in Washington, D.C. hosted by the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. You can read my previous postings on the appearance by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica and the panel with five former U.S. Secretaries of Transportation here and here. But the forum also featured several other panels with transportation advocates, stakeholders and analysts weighing in on what might be needed to convince the public and their leaders that now is the time to move forward on infrastructure investment. Among the questions they addressed:

  • How can transportation advocates win support for projects and investment in the post-earmark era?
  • What’s the best way to identify the most “shovel-worthy” projects?
  • Can more accountability and transparency in transportation programs help win back a public skeptical of government?
  • Will an injection of politics into transportation policy help or hinder efforts to move forward on infrastructure?
  • What words does the public respond to best as policy makers try to make the case for infrastructure investment?
  • What’s the best way to emphasize the impact of infrastructure on economic development and job creation?
  • How can developing a plan and vision for transportation at all levels of government and demonstrating visible benefits to the public help advance the cause?

Here is some of what the panelists at the Miller Center forum had to say on those issues.

I blogged last week about an appearance by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica at a Washington, D.C. forum hosted by the University of Virginia’s Miller Center during which the Florida Congressman discussed the timetable for introducing his committee’s transportation authorization bill. That forum was notable for a number of other reasons, including a roundtable that brought together five former U.S. secretaries of transportation. Among the issues they touched on: how to restore public confidence in transportation spending and how to define a compelling national purpose for the federal transportation program. Here is some of what they had to say.

With significant growth expected in freight transportation over the next several decades as a result of the expansion of the Panama Canal and other factors, a number of states have begun to adopt policies that seek to take trucks off the road and make the nation's supply chain more multi-modal. By improving infrastructure at seaports, incentivizing shippers, making greater use of inland waterways, creating partnerships to reduce freight rail bottlenecks and developing state and regional freight plans, these states stand to make significant improvements to freight efficiency and safety as well as to the environment. 

In October 2011, CSG hosted an invitation-only Transportation Policy Academy in Washington, D.C. for a group of 11 state legislators from around the country, many of whom serve in leadership positions on transportation-focused committees in their states. In addition to providing an opportunity for these state leaders to meet with their members of Congress about the future of transportation policy, CSG also invited a group of policy experts, public officials, advocates and observers to speak to the group about the policy landscape, what may lie ahead for states in transportation and what some states are doing in the absence of federal action. In the interest of sharing their insights and expertise with a broader CSG audience, this series of blog posts will feature extended excerpts from their remarks on a wide variety of transportation policy issues. Janet Kavinoky is the Executive Director for Transportation and Infrastructure at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In her remarks to policy academy participants, Kavinoky discussed the relationship between infrastructure and economic performance, the focus of the federal transportation program, the future of transportation funding, and America’s intermodal needs.

In October 2011, CSG hosted an invitation-only Transportation Policy Academy in Washington, D.C. for a group of 11 state legislators from around the country, many of whom serve in leadership positions on transportation-focused committees in their states. In addition to providing an opportunity for these state leaders to meet with their members of Congress about the future of transportation policy, CSG also invited a group of policy experts, public officials, advocates and observers to speak to the group about the policy landscape, what may lie ahead for states in transportation and what some states are doing in the absence of federal action. In the interest of sharing their insights and expertise with a broader CSG audience, this series of blog posts will feature extended excerpts from their remarks on a wide variety of transportation policy issues. Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton (who is also the Vice Chair of CSG’s Transportation Policy Task Force) was the keynote speaker for the policy academy. In his remarks to policy academy attendees, he spoke about Virginia's new state infrastructure bank, it's exploration of public-private partnerships and other issues.

State transportation officials this week called on Congress to take action by September 30th to extend the 18.4 cents-per-gallon gas tax that funds federal highway and transit programs and to pass a long-term reauthorization of those programs. I also have items this week on the future of infrastructure finance, tolling, public transit, Smart Growth, a model for regional freight plans, Seattle’s new Big Dig and possible restructuring for the South Carolina Department of Transportation following a recent fiscal crisis.

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.

With Washington still embroiled in the debt ceiling debate and no momentum for a new transportation reauthorization bill, we get a glimpse this week at the potential cost of doing nothing to improve America’s infrastructure. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) issues a new report today entitled “Failure to Act: The Economic Impact of Current Investment Trends in Surface Transportation Infrastructure.” The report indicates that not only are American households and businesses absorbing enormous costs today as a result of deteriorating infrastructure, over the next 30 years these costs could further reduce America’s productivity and competitiveness in the world, cause millions of Americans to forgo discretionary purchases in order to pay transportation costs that could have been avoided, cause the U.S. to lose out on creating jobs in high paying services and manufacturing industries, produce a significant drain on wages and productivity and result in the United States losing billions of dollars in foreign exports.

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