NLC Working for TEA 21 Reauthorization: Local Governments Seek Federal Partnership to Battle Traffic Congestion

Article excerpt

The National League of Cities is advocating that Congress reauthorize the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century and support local priorities including increased spending to fight urban congestion, to build mass transit systems and intermodal transportation systems, and to empower local officials to have more control over transportation planning and projects.

With Congress set to convene after the August recess, NLC and its allies want Congress to pass a six-year reauthorization of the TEA 21, which expires Sept. 30, and to commit to investing up to $375 billion during that time.

NLC is also urging the federal government to work closely with local officials in crafting a new transportation law that builds on the success of TEA 21 and confronts the challenges of transportation security, growing congestion, intermodal systems and new local roles and responsibilities

"Our cities and towns need a strong commitment from our federal partners to keep our nation's infrastructure intact and to expand it. We also need to know that they will support our efforts to ensure the safety of our highways, and transits systems," said NLC President John DeStefano Jr., mayor of New Haven Conn.

A key component of NLC's advocacy for TEA 21 is to alleviate traffic congestion that is costing millions of dollars in lost productivity in many of the nation's urban regions.

According to the Texas Transportation Institute, congested roadways cost U.S. citizens more than $67 billion per year in wasted fuel and lost time. On average, the institute reported, Americans spend up to one-and-one-half weeks per year sitting in traffic.

Another critical factor in combating congestion is giving local officials more authority to make transportation decisions.

Currently, local governments own and operate about 75 percent of the nation's 4-million-mile highway and roadway network, about 300,000 bridges and 90 percent of the nation's mass transit systems.

Yet, when it comes time to make crucial transportation decisions, local officials have control of only 6 cents of every tax dollar in federal transportation spending. …