Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Report Outlines A New Vision For U.S. Transportation Policy

Jun 9: Calling its recommendations a "framework for comprehensive reform," the Bipartisan Policy Center’s National Transportation Policy Project (NTPP) released its plan for transforming Federal surface transportation policy. If adopted by the Administration and Congress in this year’s authorization bill, the plan would constitute the first major overhaul of transportation policy in more than 50 years. It proposes restructuring Federal programs, updating the criteria for formulas, and creating a performance-based system that directly ties transportation spending to broader national goals, including economic growth, connectivity, accessibility, safety, energy security and environmental protection. Currently, transportation funding is distributed on a politically-driven basis with little analysis of benefits and no accountability for results.

According to a release, the plan has a strong bipartisan foundation. Under the leadership of former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer, former Congressman Sherwood Boehlert, former Senator Slade Gorton, and former Congressman Martin Sabo, the NTPP -- a bipartisan group of 26 diverse members -- produced its plan -- Performance Driven: A New Vision for U.S. Transportation Policy -- as a blueprint for a new national transportation system that is efficient, effective, and accountable for performance.

As Congress is scheduled to take up reauthorization of the nation’s surface transportation law, SAFETEA-LU, this year, NTPP is calling for a complete restructuring of the Federal transportation funding system. To date, there is no Federal requirement to optimize returns on public investments, and programs are not structured to reward outcomes, or even to document them. Moreover, existing programs do little to target Federal support for transportation programs to further economic growth or link to jobs and productivity.

Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), an original co-founding chair of NTPP, attended the release announcement and commended NTPP’s bipartisan report. He especially praised the NTPP for advocating "a bottom-up approach to reform whereby states and metropolitan areas can develop their own solutions to transportation problems." He said, “This idea, called mode-neutrality, enables states like Virginia to make their own decisions about how to spend federal money as long as their investments meet accountability standards and promote national goals.”

NTPP also proposes holding all funding recipients accountable for their contributions to national goals. A new system of metrics would measure project performance in several areas: improved access, a more efficient national network, reduced corridor congestion and petroleum consumption, reduced CO2 emissions, and reduced fatalities and injuries. States and regions whose investments performed well against those goals would be entitled to bonus funding; areas that did not would be subject to greater Federal scrutiny in receiving transportation funding.

World Resources Institute (WRI), a member of the NTPP, issued a release on the report saying the recommendations are intended to create a thorough framework within the reauthorization of the transportation bill, which expires September 30. The NTPP calls for U.S. transportation funding to directly serve five clear goals: economic growth, connectivity, metropolitan access, energy and environment, and safety.

Nancy Kete, director of EMBARQ -- The World Resources Institute Center for Sustainable Transport, and one of the NTPP’s key members focused on the energy and environment goals said, "A transportation system that emits a full third of our greenhouse gases and is almost entirely dependent on oil is not sustainable from an economic, national security, or environmental perspective. I am pleased with how much the members have focused on ensuring that transportation policy is responsive to the 21st century challenges of energy security and climate change. We’re calling for a dramatic change in the way transportation investment decisions are made. A new bill must play a fundamental role in reducing greenhouse gases over the coming decades. Low-carbon fuels and the Obama administration’s decision to improve fuel economy standards will not be enough for us to reach our targets."

She continued saying, "States and localities will need to consider transportation-demand management measures. Congestion pricing, increasing the quality and supply of transit, and improving integrated transportation and land-use planning will help avoid GHG emissions in the future. The proposed new programs under the NTPP recommendations would allow states and localities full flexibility to meet national goals according to their needs and priorities. The accountability measures and incentive provisions will keep everyone on track towards cutting U.S. GHG emissions potentially required under the Waxman-Markey bill.”

Access a lengthy release (
click here). Access the NTPP website for links to an executive summary, the complete report, a video of the launch press conference, project members and more (click here). Access a release and links to further information from WRI (click here).