Article as published in Crosscut During his successful campaign for the presidency, Barack Obama embraced the cause of surface transportation, arguing with gusto for improvements to inter-city high speed rail, for research and development to advance the mainstream adoption of alternative fuels, and for other green transportation initiatives. In contrast, his general election opponent John McCain trilled one note on the evils of transportation funding earmarks. To those who follow surface transportation policy, the difference between the two was stark: Obama won big points as the more knowledgeable, engaged, and passionate of the two. McCain appeared to be either out of his depth, disinterested, or constrained by poor political counsel. Now flash forward to our current and befuzzled times. While Read More ›
The much-hyped federal economic stimulus package isn’t looking like it will do all that much for surface transportation. The New York Times reports that the House stimulus bill contains a scant $30 billion for roads and bridges and $10 billion for transit. Turns out most of the infrastructure spending in the bill is not for surface transportation. The new administration has weighed in, supporting the bill. Washington State would get $530 million for highways, roads and bridges and $216 million for transit from the bill, according to D.C. correspondent Les Blumenthal. To put that in context, we have about $38 billion in unmet transportation funding needs, as shown on p. 5 of this overview from the Washington State Transportation Commission. Read More ›
But The Real Challenge Is Regional Leadership Though the details are far from settled, a federal economic stimulus package of roughly $600 billion to $800 billion has strong support from President-elect Barack Obama. Congress, including the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrat caucus, is bound to register concern over more borrowing. Still, something will pass and everyone will be grabbing for their share. As much as $300 billion of the stimulus could be set aside for infrastructure, primarily surface transportation. Hammered by declining tax revenues tied to the economic downturn, plus tight credit markets and growing transportation infrastructure needs, states are feeling needy, and many are voicing great hopes for stimulus package aid. But the stimulus money has to be spent Read More ›
President-elect Barack Obama Friday is to name retiring Illinois Congressman Ray LaHood the next U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary. Though he has served on the House Transportation Committee, moderate Republican LaHood’s upside is his well established role as a bipartisan diplomat with close ties to Obama’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, as the Chicago Tribune reports. He’ll need to use well the relationships he’s built in seven congressional terms. The surface transportation landscape poses big challenges and real opportunities for establishing a new way of doing business. This article about LaHood’s appointment, from the New York Times, highlights several important menu items. Mr. LaHood…has overseen major spending projects as a member of the House Appropriations Committee….The next transportation secretary will Read More ›
The group representing America’s transportation and highway officials wants you to tell President-elect Obama and the next Congress what you think should be done about transportation. AASHTO (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials) today launched a campaign — to run through inauguration day — to make sure citizens’ voices are shared with the 111th Congress and the 44th president. The Web site, www.IToldThePresident.org, lets you send comments or video.
AASHTO represents state departments of transportation. According to its release announcing the online campaign, “State departments of transportation (DOTs) across the country will be encouraging citizens to post videos about what’s happening in their communities.”
Click below to read the extended post and to view AASHTO’s press release.
The Washington Post paints an accurate picture of the surface transportation funding and financing crisis that will confront President-elect Barack Obama (below at right), Congress, and Obama’s pick to head the U.S. Department of Transportation. As roads and bridges are crumbling and cracking and transit systems struggling with rising costs and ridership, the U.S. Highway Trust Fund is in bad repair itself. Headed for bankruptcy and saved last fall only by an $8 billion raid of the U.S. Treasury’s General Fund, this highway and transit account dates to 1956 and relies on a federal gas tax that hasn’t been raised from the current level of 18.4 cents per gallon for 15 years. A high-profile federal commission has urged the tax Read More ›
Time To Bite The P3 Bullet In The Olympian, Adam Wilson reports Washington state officials are bracing for a widening gap of $95 million between expected and actual gas tax revenues through June 2009, as sharply higher gas prices constrict the volume of fuel purchased at the pump. The renewed transportation revenue concerns are indicative of a larger, long-term challenge that’s also felt due to the nearly bankrupt federal gas tax trust fund and the shifting landscape in infrastructure. …construction costs increased by 60 percent in five years, as demand in India and China drove up prices for steel and concrete, and the cost of diesel fuel for construction equipment soared. In Washington, as elsewhere, some planned road and bridge Read More ›
The Seattle Times has a story this morning about new projections of a Washington state gas tax revenue shortfall of $1.5 billion, and the added impetus this gives to tolling as means of funding crucial transportation projects. The story says the expectation of state forecasters is for continued high gas prices and constrained demand, and that although the revenue shortfall is relatively small now, it is a real problem in the long term. But that is only half of it. As we learned at our technology conference at Microsoft this year, the Prius is the fastest selling model for Toyota in the Northwest. On deck for Toyota, GM, Ford and other manufacturers are plug-in electric hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) which use Read More ›
Approaching 2008, tolling has entered the mainstream and begun to influence transportation decisions throughout the country. At the same time – as Forbes magazine notes – transponder technology is enabling higher-speed, automated “open road” tolling, foreshadowing an eventual end to the era of tollbooths. Recent news reports underscore the increased momentum for tolling – although often the pathway to implementation is challenging, and some proposals pencil out while others ultimately do not. Let’s survey the tolling landscape. With the state facing a projected 30-year, $74 billion shortfall in needed road funding, Georgia Board of Transportation member David Doss has unveiled a plan which includes a 10-year statewide one percent sales tax hike to raise $22 billion for transportation, and which Read More ›