Innovation Briefs, now in their 20th year of publication, are published by Ken Orski. Cascadia Prospectus reprints them with permission. The content of Innovation Briefs does not necessarily represent the view of Cascadia Center of Discovery Institute.
March 11, 2011
This year’s annual legislative conference of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA) took place against a background of unprecedented uncertainties concerning the future of the federal-aid transportation program. With Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood unable to explain to a skeptical Senate Budget Committee how the Administration would fund its ambitious $556 billion six-year transportation program, and with Congress bent on reducing the federal budget deficit and cutting discretionary spending, the assembled audience was reduced to speculating how to “do more with less.” Easing restrictions on tolling, encouraging public-private partnerships, expanding federal credit instruments, improving project delivery and cost-benefit analysis were some of the suggested means of leveraging and supplementing reduced federal dollars. Admittedly, these could only partly compensate for impending cuts in federal funding.
As in the past, the IBTTA meeting drew an impressive roster of speakers including transportation journalists, congressional staff members, toll agency executives and policy analysts. Luncheon speakers included Secretary Ray LaHood and former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, who delivered a spirited plea for more investment in infrastructure. “The next highway bill must clear the way for more expansive use of public-private partnerships and lift the prohibition on tolling interstate highways,” Rendell said.
One of the highlights of the conference was a concluding panel discussion involving some leading transportation policy analysts. The panel was asked to speculate about the future of the transportation policy agenda. Predictably, members of the panel split between advocates of a strong federal role and more generous funding for transportation, and those who felt that the federal presence in transportation should be curtailed and focused on infrastructure of national importance. No surprises there.
An earlier session, titled “The Look and Feel of the New Congress,” focused on the congressional outlook for transportation legislation. The panel, moderated by former Member of Congress from Michigan, Bob Carr, included Jennifer Hall, Counsel, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure; Alex Herrgott, Minority Staff Member, Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works; Peter Loughlin, President of Loughlin Enterprises and formerly with the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; and your editor, Ken Orski. My prepared remarks can be found below.