July | August 2017


 

 

 

 

 

State Transportation Funding Activities

By Sean Slone, CSG Program Manager for Transportation Policy
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Even as federal inaction on transportation continues, a number of states have moved forward over the last couple of years to address their transportation needs.
Other states, including some of those represented at the CSG Transportation Policy Academy in Washington, D.C., Sept. 15-17, could be poised to do the same in 2015. But legislators from states that have already tackled the issue said they see the need for a strong federal partner.
“I have reminded federal people right to their face that the fact that Vermont raised (its gas tax in 2013) had nothing to do with covering (the gap) and giving them cover,” said Vermont Rep. Diane Lanpher. “It was about being able to raise what we needed to and be responsible at the state level, not to cover them.”
She said the state’s action did not relieve the federal government of its responsibility.
Increased revenues aren’t the only way states are addressing transportation challenges.

Public-Private Partnerships

One key focus of the CSG policy academy was public-private partnerships—known as P3s—in transportation.
Lawmakers had the opportunity to see and hear about P3 projects in the capital region, including new express toll lanes on the Capital Beltway in Virginia, soon-to-open express lanes on I-95 and a proposed light rail transit project in Maryland.
“Virginia and other states are well ahead of where Kentucky (is) and I’m learning stuff to take back,” said Kentucky Sen. Ernie Harris, who chairs the state’s Senate Transportation Committee. “It’s a new environment in transportation. It’s been tried and we know the failures that have been publicized, but we’re learning of the successes.”
The private company running the Indiana Toll Road, one of the nation’s first transportation P3s, recently announced its intentions to transfer operations to a new entity as part of a bankruptcy filing.
But even states that have had greater success with P3s are continuing to evolve.
Douglas Koelemay, who leads Virginia’s dedicated office for P3s, told attendees the state is reviewing its manual of guidelines for P3 projects to make transparency a key goal throughout the process and to enhance competition.
The federal government also is working to help facilitate more public-private partnerships around the country, speakers noted.
The U.S. Transportation and Treasury departments recently set up a center to provide assistance in that area. Members of the U.S. House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee’s special panel on P3s last week issued their final report and recommendations on how to balance the needs of the public and private sectors when undertaking P3s.

The Road Ahead

Policy academy speakers and attendees said all levels of government need to invest in the nation’s infrastructure at the time to do it is now.
“When we invest and projects move forward, we see results,” said Brian Pallasch of the American Society of Civil Engineers, one of the sponsors of the policy academy. “It’s about picking the right projects, it’s about going forward and investing and making that commitment to improve the infrastructure (and) to improve the economy. … We need to stop thinking that we can spend 1993 dollars and fix 2014 problems.”
For Vehle, the South Dakota senator, it comes down to what we want to leave for the next generations.
“I happen to be a Republican, but to the ones that are further to the right than me … I always say we always complain about D.C. not paying for what they’re doing,” he said. “I don’t care whether it’s Social Security or Medicare or whatever. I say, ‘OK, is that what we’re going to do with transportation? Are we going to use it all up and just leave it to our kids and grandkids to fix it up or are we going to pay for what we use?’ And I’ve got a lot of them going ‘oh, darn, he’s right.’”
 

 

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