Major Groups Weigh in on the State of the Transportation System

By Pulidindi, Julia | Nation's Cities Weekly, April 7, 2008 | Go to article overview

Major Groups Weigh in on the State of the Transportation System


Pulidindi, Julia, Nation's Cities Weekly


The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEALU) reauthorization is not the only factor that is prompting NLC to highlight surface transportation funding as one of its priority issues this year. The numerous problems unfolding from the transportation system, which range from financing, maintenance and allocation of responsibilities to the upcoming reauthorization, make it perfect timing to revisit the structure of transportation funding-related legislation.

The bridge collapse last year in Minneapolis underlined the need for greater investments in the nation's infrastructure. In January, the congressionally mandated National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission reported that at least $225 billion will be needed annually for the next 50 years to upgrade the existing system to a state of good repair and create a more advanced transportation system.

The commission also reported other factors, like America's involvement in the global economy, will continue to strain the transportation system as demand for product delivery increases at a rate greater to the population and, more importantly, for investments.

The National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) recently convened an intergovernmental forum on transportation finance and produced a report called "Financing Transportation in the 21st Century: An Intergovernmental Perspective" that was also released in January. It reported that "the financing of America's highway and transit system has become out of step with the performance that Americans expect of those systems."

Many experts say current funding levels are barely enough to maintain the system much less improve and increase capacity and start new construction. It has also been said that the Highway Trust Fund, which funds highway and transit needs, does not even have enough money to sustain the system for the near foreseeable future, and has proven that it isn't a very reliable funding source.

Another aspect the NAPA report highlights is the importance of federal, state and local governments working together to create a cohesive transportation system.

"There are many groups/associations, including [NLC], that are looking at the unmet funding needs for all transportation in this country," said Councilmember Marcia Marcoux of Rochester, Minn., one of NLC's representatives who attended the NAPA intergovernmental forum. "The NAPA principles group brought an unusual synergy of elected officials representing all levels of government together to look at this issue. Establishing the 'need' for financing was an easy first step. It did not take long to find the inconsistencies across the various states, cities and regions in how planning is done, priorities set and funding mechanisms [becoming] available . …

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