“They’re gonna need to see this upstairs.” That’s what staff at the U.S. Department of Transportation told Smart Growth America president Geoff Anderson yesterday when he showed up with 1,500 letters from T4America and Smart Growth America supporters urging USDOT to improve their targets for reducing the number of deaths and serious injuries on our streets and to better hold states accountable for reaching those goals.
It’s important that we get this first of 12 “performance measures” right, and that’s why we joined with SGA in asking our supporters to send a letter to USDOT urging them to improve this first one and take a positive step forward into this new system of accountability. More than 1,500 people responded with letters to USDOT that Geoff Anderson delivered DOT Secretary Anthohny Foxx the old fashioned way, via hard copy,
As a refresher, the 2012 federal transportation law, MAP-21, created a first-ever accountability framework for measuring the payoff from the billions given to states and MPOs each year. It was left to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to put flesh on the bones by adopting rules for how to apply those performance measures.
But we were discouraged by DOT’s first attempt at proposing a set of requirements for judging progress on safety on our roads, deeming it “too weak to be effective.”
This rule for the first measure, if finalized as it was proposed, would allow the states that fail to meet the targets they set for themselves to avoid taking action to improve their outcomes. Further, the USDOT decision to require states to meet only two requirements gives short shrift to the idea of accountability. (Much more detail on the shortcomings in this first draft measure can be found in our original post.)
Getting this one right is critical not just for safety, but also in setting the tone for the 11 other performance standards to come.
After going to all the trouble two years ago to create this new system of accountability to ensure that taxpayer dollars are better spent — which helps build the support and confidence needed to raise new revenue, by the way — it makes no sense to do them halfway. They need teeth, they need to result in money better spent, and they need to help build the confidence of the taxpayers who are asked to pay for improving the country’s infrastructure.
It’s imperative that we put our best foot forward and show that this new system of measuring performance is a strong step toward a better, safer, more complete transportation network.
We thank those of you who took the time to send in a letter, and we’re honored to help deliver them.
As SGA said to their supporters this morning, “Rest assured: they’re going to see this upstairs.”