Category Archives: Transportation

Surface Transportation Restructured Federal Approach Needed for More Focused, Performance-Based, and Sustainable Programs

Source: GAO Reports, GAO-08-400, March 2007

From the summary:
Surface transportation programs need to be reexamined in the context of the nation’s current unsustainable fiscal path. Surface transportation programs are particularly ready for review as the Highway Trust Fund faces a fiscal imbalance at a time when both congestion and travel demand are growing. As you requested, this report (1) provides an overview of the federal role in surface transportation and the goals and structures of federal programs, (2) summarizes GAO’s conclusions about the structure and performance of these programs, and (3) provides principles to assess options for focusing future surface transportation programs. GAO’s study is based on prior GAO reports, stakeholder reports and interviews, Department of Transportation documents, and the views of transportation experts.

See also:

States Identify $18 Billion in Projects “Ready to Go” To Aid in Economic Stimulus

Source: American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), Press release, January 30, 2008

State transportation departments could award and begin more than 3,000 highway projects totaling approximately $18 billion within 30-90 days from enactment of federal economic stimulus legislation, according to a survey by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

The survey, conducted this week at the request of Congressional committees who are at work on the stimulus effort, drew responses from 47 of AASHTO’s members, including the District of Columbia. The state-by-state response is attached.
Press release includes chart.

Transportation for Tomorrow: Report of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission

Source: National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, December 2007

Over the next half-century, the U.S. is projected to add 150 million new residents, a 50 percent increase over its current population. This growing society will demand higher levels of goods and services, and will rely on the transportation system to access them. In turn, this will cause travel to grow at an even greater rate than the population.

As part of an increasingly integrated global economy, the U.S. will see greater pressures on its international gateways and domestic freight distribution network to deliver products and materials to where they are needed. The Nation is faced with a massive increase in passenger and freight travel.

The Nation’s surface transportation program has reached a crossroads. Will it continue to function as it has since the completion of the Interstate system, pursuing no discernible national interests other than the political imperatives of “donor State” rights and congressional earmarking? Or will it advance concerted actions to confront the transportation challenges facing the Nation that have reached crisis proportions–the deferred maintenance of its basic infrastructure; the burgeoning international trade and its impact on our road and rail networks; the traffic congestion that is crippling metropolitan America; the continued carnage on the Nation’s highways; and powering cars and trucks with fossil fuels, much of which is imported from foreign countries?


States are poised to spend billions on fixing infrastructure. They might want to fix the construction industry first.
Source: ZACH PATTON, Governing, November 2007

…That’s a big problem because in the aftermath of the I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis, states are poised to make some big infrastructure investments. As that calamity made clear, many of America’s roadways, bridges and tunnels are in critical condition after decades of deferred maintenance. In some places, the needs are especially pressing. Massachusetts needs to spend $17 billion on repairs, according to one report. In Pennsylvania, the tab for bridge maintenance is $11 billion. In New Jersey, it’s more than $13.5 billion. Overall, the American Society of Civil Engineers gives the nation’s infrastructure system a grade of “D,” and the group says that fixing the country’s existing problems is a job with a $1.6 trillion price tag.

As states redouble their efforts on maintenance, the trick will be to produce more successful projects such as the MacArthur Maze and fewer tarnished ones along the lines of the Benicia-Martinez Bridge. It won’t be easy. Issues of cost overruns and missed deadlines have plagued construction projects for years. And transportation departments will continue to deal with a construction industry that is, in many ways, antiquated, inefficient and wasteful. Minnesota, still shaking off the shock of seeing a key transportation asset crumble into the Mississippi River, is now grappling with its replacement cost soaring toward $400 million. That’s 57 percent higher than the amount the federal government set aside for the bridge. And construction hasn’t even begun yet.

When a Bridge Falls Down

Source: Matt Sundeen, State Legislatures, October/November 2007

The catastrophic collapse of the I-35 bridge over the Mississippi River in August sent shockwaves that reverberated well beyond the immediate vicinity of Minneapolis-St. Paul. The deteriorating condition of the country’s network of highways, bridges and rail lines is a problem that has long concerned transportation experts. For most, the bridge collapse was a call-to-action to fund overdue improvements and fix the nation’s aging transportation infrastructure. Although many federal, state and local lawmakers agree repairs are needed, what the appropriate response should be continues to be a matter for debate.

Transportation for a Metropolitan Nation

Source: Robert Puentes, Brookings Institution, Metropolitan Policy Project, Congressional Testimony, Committee on the Budget United States House of Representatives, October 25, 2007

Debate on the nation’s transportation policy focuses narrowly on new revenues needed to bolster the federal program. In recent testimony before the House Budget Committee, Fellow Robert Puentes argues that we should start with a clearer articulation of the goals, objectives and desired outcomes.

New Study: Gas Tax Varies Greatly Among the States, No Longer the Road-Building Fee It Once Was

Source: Jonathan Williams, Tax Foundation, Background Paper, no. 56, October 2007

From the press release:
As the price of oil, and subsequently the price of gasoline, has continued to rise in recent years, many motorists have expressed outrage over the “pain at the pump.” A new study released today by the Tax Foundation shows that drivers’ ire should be aimed not only at oil and gas producers, but also at the uneven and increasingly unprincipled taxation of gas across the United States.

Repairing Bridges without Raising Gas Taxes

Source: Heidi Sommer and H. Sterling Burnett, National Center For Policy Analysis, Brief Analysis, No. 597, October 18, 2007

While there are legitimate concerns about the safety of the nation’s infrastructure, increasing the federal gas tax is unnecessary and will ultimately hurt America’s poor and low-income citizens. Fortunately, Congress can better ensure the soundness of the nation’s bridges and overpasses without raising taxes, simply by shifting existing funds within the transportation budget.

Taking a Toll: Rapid growth and declining public funds send states racing toward alternatives to pay for new highways

Source: Ed Brock, American City & County, Vol. 122 no. 9, September 2007

… Georgia is not the only state turning to PPPs and toll roads to handle increased traffic. According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), 21 states allow the use of PPPs to fund transportation projects. Also, since the passage of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) in 1991, 27 states and one territory have implemented major toll road operations, according to the August 2006 FHA study “Current Toll Road Activity in the U.S.A. Survey and Analysis.”

Landmark Study Puts Rail Infrastructure Needs at $148 Billion

Source: Lance R. Grenzeback, David T. Hunt, and Daniel F. Beagan, Association of American Railroads, September 2007

From the press release:
About $148 billion must be invested to expand the nation’s freight rail infrastructure over the next three decades to make sure that adequate rail capacity exists to meet future demand, according to the results of a first-of-its-kind study to measure rail capacity needs. Released today, the National Rail Freight Infrastructure Capacity and Investment Study explores the long-term capacity expansion needs of the continental U.S. freight railroads.

The study, conducted by Cambridge Systematics, paints a dire picture if freight rail capacity isn’t increased: “Without this investment, 30 percent of the rail miles in the primary corridors will be operating above capacity by 2035, causing severe congestion that will affect every region of the country and potentially shift freight to an already heavily congested highway system.”

The study highlights needed investment in new tracks, signals, bridges, tunnels, terminals and service facilities that railroads need to keep pace with demand for rail freight transportation, which is expected to almost double over the next 30 years.
Capacity Maps: Current and Future