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Local chambers from every state urge Congress to save transportation fund, improve it with smart policies

Adding a strong business voice to the call for a robust transportation program that helps build local economies, more than 260 regional chambers of commerce today sent a message to Congress to pass a long-term bill with smart reforms.

UPDATED: 3/3 11:23 a.m. with quotes from a Senate hearing this morning.

It’s a great letter, signed by a growing list of chamber execs from every state. It is significant on its own to see so many chambers join the chorus on the need for a well-funded, long-term transportation bill. But the chambers’ call for action goes beyond that to identify four key policies as keys to their competitive edge.

For one, they want to ensure that federal dollars can support all modes of transportation. Wherever the dollars can bring the greatest return, that’s where they need to go — flexibility is a must. They want to see a more strategic approach to moving freight that addresses urban-area bottlenecks for every mode of shipping and travel. They want to expand low-cost loans, known as TIFIA, which can be used to deliver projects faster, as Los Angeles is doing to build out its regional transit infrastructure.

But one request is worth reading in full:

Empower local communities and metropolitan regions with more authority over both federal funding and decision-making. Innovation is happening at the local level and yet our local decision makers don’t have enough of the tools, and control less than 10 percent of the funding, which limit the ability to advance key projects that can grow the economies in communities big and small.

These executives have their pulse on the local or regional business community, giving them a firsthand understanding of the importance of smart local investments in transportation. And they know how devastating it can be to their economy when pressing local needs are overlooked by the state or the feds.

The chambers agree that more transportation dollars, and control over those dollars, need to be directed to the local and regional level, where workers are trying to get to jobs and goods too often struggle to get to market.

Congress wouldn’t have to look far for at least one possible solution to this request: The Innovation in Surface Transportation Act, introduced near the end of the last Congress, is expected to be reintroduced this month.

That same connection was made just a few minutes ago this morning by one of that bill’s Senate original sponsors this morning in a Commerce Committee hearing. Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) referenced this chamber letter in a question for Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx about the Innovation in Surface Transportation Act.

“It is to my understanding that later this morning more than 250 Chamber of Commerce executives will send to Congress a letter requesting action, number one, to fund the nation’s transportation system and secondly to empower local communities,” said Senator Wicker during the hearing. He continued:

“I know as a former Mayor, you were very interested in empowering local communities with more authority over federal funding and decision making. …Last year I was pleased to coauthor with Senator Booker the Innovation in Surface Transportation Act, known as Wicker-Booker, to provide local governments of all sizes access and opportunity to participate in the federal transportation program. I can tell you, Mr. Secretary, that when county governments come to see me, when city officials come to see me, they are excited about this concept of a program to dedicate a portion of federal funding…to create a small pool of competitive grant funds to be awarded on a merit basis available to mayors, county officials, and local leaders. These chamber of commerce executives who will release this letter today…they represent all 50 states and both large and small communities from all across this country.”

Secretary Foxx responded to the question and said that the bill is “something that I think we should absolutely take a close look at, and I hope Congress will seriously consider it.”

Be sure to click through and read the letter, and you can see if your local chamber is on board with the handy map below they’ve included.


View the map and the rest of the information here.

2 Comments

  1. Walt Brewer

    3 years ago

    Behind his action, probably is dissatisfaction with the one size fits all Federal approach and the complexities of approval actions, etc.
    In transportation principles, the major problem is failure of neatly 50 years mass transit emphasis to get people out of the on-demand direct to destination cars they find most useful.
    Are Reions, Counties, cities ready with the called out smart innovative designs for replacement?
    Especially because urban transportation is in the midst of the Autonomous Vehicle System revolution likely to minimize even further most of mass transits activities.
    The Self Driving Car and Personal Rapid Transit, or better Area Transportation Network, are primary contenders.
    Both provide the preferred on-demand personal service.
    Both save considerable land; parking, etc. Both provide personal service to non-drivers who now are the principal users of mass transit.
    Growing communities need more roads for SDC, ATN would be safely operated on narrow dedicated guideways.
    If allocated funds to improve mobility locally, would leaders be willing to make support choices?

  2. Jon Evans

    3 years ago

    My position has always been that there must be a diversity of high speed transportation systems: air; Rail; highway; even sea. Presently, the only way to get from city to city in a speedy, practical manner is by air. That must change. As we saw during the 9/11 attacks, a disruption of the air transit system caused massive transportation system problems.