Transportation For America Issues National Blueprint For Transportation ReformMay 11, 2009
By Stephen Lee Davis
Nation’s largest transportation coalition pledges support for a near-doubling of program, in return for major reform
Governor Edward Rendell (PA) provides keynote address
|The Route to Reform: Blueprint for a 21st Century Federal Transportation Program
WASHINGTON - Today, as Congress prepares to rewrite the federal transportation law, Transportation for America released a detailed plan to restructure the nation’s transportation program in order to build a smart, safe and clean transportation system that provides real choices to all Americans.
Developed in consultation with teams of transportation professionals, public officials and stakeholders, The Route to Reform outlines a renewed vision for the federal program as well as ways to pay for it, coupled with a restructuring that can produce results. To highlight key features of the proposal, the coalition convened transportation industry experts from across the country for a panel discussion in the House Transportation Committee Room on Capitol Hill.
To highlight key features of this proposal, T4 America convened policymakers and experts from across the country. Governor of Pennsylvania Edward Rendell gave the keynote address and panelists included James Corless, Director, Transportation for America Campaign; Elaine Clegg: Special Projects Manager, Idaho Smart Growth; City Council Member (Boise, ID); Astrid Glynn, former Commissioner, New York State Department of Transportation, Andrew Cotugno, Director of Planning, Metro (Portland, OR); and Ronald Kilcoyne, General Manager/CEO, Greater Bridgeport Transit Authority (CT).
A copy of The Route to Reform can be found at http://t4america.org/blueprint.
“As the existing program has lost focus and energy, we find ourselves with an aging, yet incomplete transportation system that is not prepared to serve the changing America of the 21st century,” said James Corless, Director of Transportation for America. “Our coalition is prepared to lend considerable support for a much larger investment in transportation, but we believe that only a reinvigorated, redirected federal program will win buy-in from our coalition and American taxpayers in general.”
In the blueprint, Transportation for America recommends Congress include four critical reforms in the upcoming transportation authorization bill:
- Articulate a National Vision, Objectives, and Performance Targets for the national transportation program and hold state and local transportation agencies accountable for demonstrable progress toward goals including safety, efficiency, environment, health and equity.
- Restructure and consolidate federal programs for greater modal integration, with a focus on completing the second half of the national transportation system, providing more transportation options for all Americans and creating seamless transportation systems that meet the unique needs and connect metropolitan regions, small towns, and rural areas.
- Empower states, regions, and cities with direct transportation funding and greater flexibility to select projects, using carrots and sticks to incentivize wise transportation investments and in return require demonstrated performance on meeting national objectives.
- Reform how we pay for the transportation system and create a Unified Transportation Trust Fund that would achieve balanced allocations of federal funds in a portfolio of rail, freight, highway, public transportation, and non-motorized transportation investments
The Route to Reform breaks with convention by calling on Congress not to increase taxes to provide additional funding to the federal transportation program unless it also institutes critical reforms. In the summer of 2008 Congress had to patch the highway trust fund with an $8 billion infusion from the general fund. A similar fix may be needed again this summer and long term projections show that the current funding mechanisms will not meet future needs.
“Increased revenues for transportation are needed to pay for necessary upgrades to the federal program, but we can only support more money if it’s accompanied by a bold new vision for a 21st century transportation system,” said Corless. “As a nation, we want people to use less oil and gasoline, not more, so we are sunk in the long run if we rely only on the gas tax. We should look at a variety of potential revenue strategies, but that must go hand-in-hand with reforms to help spend these funds more wisely.”
The T4 America analysts concluded that in the short run, it may be necessary to raise the federal gas tax, or to move to a sales tax on fuels or a surcharge on oil, in preparation for a transition to a tax based on vehicle miles traveled.
“Our nation’s transportation program has not been significantly upgraded since the 1950’s when President Eisenhower created our federal highway system,” concluded Corless. “Economic competitiveness in the 21st Century relies upon innovative solutions that give Americans options and connect our cities, regions, and rural areas. The upcoming rewrite of our federal transportation law represents a once in a lifetime opportunity to develop a new national transportation vision and leave behind a new legacy for our children and grandchildren. The Route to Reform will help policy makers ensure that legacy is one they can be proud of.”
Read the report at http://t4america.org/blueprint.