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It took a storm of unprecedented proportions for it to happen but Superstorm Sandy, in forcing the shutdown of bridges and tunnels, subways, shipping routes and airports, managed to accomplish what months of campaigning could not: putting infrastructure front and center in the 2012 election (or at least disrupting the regular political dialogue and partisanship momentarily). As we enter the campaign’s final weekend, here are some links to ponder about Sandy, the election and what’s at stake for the future of the nation’s infrastructure.

Transportation has been a mostly neglected issue on the presidential campaign trail this year. That has left media organizations and political and transportation analysts to try to fill the void in differentiating where President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney stand on transportation issues and what the election of one or the other might mean for state governments. With a week to go before the nation chooses a chief executive who may determine the future of transportation for decades to come, here’s a reading guide on the candidates.

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.

James Bass is Chief Financial Officer of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). He will speak to members of the CSG Transportation Policy Task Force at the CSG National Conference in Austin on December 1, 2012 (see the task force agenda here and register for the conference here). I interviewed Bass for an article in the October 25th issue of the Capitol Ideas E-Newsletter. Below is an extended transcript of our conversation. He discusses federal transportation funding, the use of public-private partnerships and tolling in Texas, and the Lone Star State’s future transportation revenue needs.

A few items from the last few weeks provide a look at what states are learning about their future infrastructure needs, the harsh fiscal realities they face and how transportation priorities may need to change in the years ahead: The condition of roads in Texas is costing individual motorists as much as $2,000 a year, a new report says. Massachusetts transportation officials say they won’t build any more superhighways and are calling on people to travel by means other than the solo car trip. After the failure of this summer’s transportation sales tax referendum in Georgia, a think tank offers ideas for Plan B. Pennsylvania awaits word from its governor on how to move forward to address that state’s transportation needs. Minnesota officials expect the state’s roads to be in decline over the next two decades as transportation revenues remain flat. Connecticut gets an assessment of how its infrastructure capital program stacks up against other states. And Tennessee re-evaluates its lengthy transportation wish list.

While MAP-21, the surface transportation authorization bill approved by Congress this summer, had numerous provisions (and a few notable omissions), observers say the legislation’s establishment of transportation performance measures is one of the key reforms with the potential to be truly transformative for the federal-aid highway program. National transportation goals will be emphasized and there will be important roles for state governments and metropolitan planning organizations in developing performance measures and targets. CSG has long been a supporter of state performance measurement initiatives through efforts like our States Perform website. That’s why we jumped at the chance to host an upcoming webinar for Cambridge Systematics that will help the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) design a performance reporting approach that policymakers at all levels will find useful.

The Council of State Governments hosted the 2012 CSG Transportation Policy Academy June 26-28 in Washington, DC just as Congressional negotiators were reaching final agreement on a new federal surface transportation bill. Eight state legislators from seven states and representing all four of CSG’s regions attended the academy. The group included five legislators who chair transportation committees in their respective states. The policy academy agenda included visits to Capitol Hill and the U.S. Department of Transportation, a bus tour of regional transportation construction projects hosted by the Virginia Department of Transportation and briefings on such topics as the state of the nation’s infrastructure, the importance of infrastructure investment to the economy, the future of the federal-state partnership in transportation and innovative transportation financing options for states including public-private partnerships and state infrastructure banks. Here are some highlights of remarks by policy academy briefers and links to resources where you can learn more.

On July 5th, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett signed legislation (House Bill 3) to allow the state to enter into public-private partnerships (P3s for short) to finance transportation projects. As a result, Pennsylvania became the 33rd state to adopt such legislation. The 32 other states they join all have their own stories to tell about their experiences and justifications for employing the financing tool, as I was again reminded last month at the annual InfraAmericas U.S. P3 Infrastructure Forum in New York City.

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.

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.

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