AASHTO: Top 10 transportation issues in 2011
With a new majority in the House, a new chairman and many new members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, as well as a changing national economic picture, it is worth asking the question, “What’s ahead for transportation in 2011?”
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) has compiled a list of issues that loom at the local, state, and federal levels.
“We are urging Congress to write a balanced bill next year that meets the needs of preservation and new capacity, meets the needs of rural and urban America, and meets the needs for highways as well as transit,” says John Horsley, AASHTO’s executive director, in a written statement. “If we get a bill passed with these elements, we have a shot of meeting the country’s needs.
“It’s important to remember that for every dollar that we don’t spend today to preserve highways, five years from now it will cost us $7,” Horsley continues. “In addition, President Obama wants exports to lead our national economic recovery. But you can’t move goods competitively to markets without a solid aviation, water, and rail system, and if we let those systems decline further, we won’t be able to sustain that export-led growth. Bottom line: It’s vital to the national economic recovery to have a world-class transportation system.”
Here’s a look at the top 10 transportation topics that we think will be part of the national conversation in 2011 – in the media, in government, and around the dinner table.
1. Enacting a long-term transportation bill that will keep America moving.
In 2010, there was a lot of talk about the need for a new long-term transportation bill, but in the end, Congress opted for a short-term extension until March 4 of the existing law. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), new chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has said he would like a new bill ready for consideration in the spring. Short-term extensions can create difficulties for state departments of transportation who must juggle major, multi-year public works projects such as reconstructing bridges or interchanges. In addition, these projects require that states have secure, long-term financing before any contracts can be signed. A multitude of associations, states, counties, cities, businesses and highway users will continue to work to ensure that a balanced, long-term and multi-year bill is adopted in 2011.
2. Paying for the transportation system we need.
Although the need to pass a long-term bill is a significant priority for the country, the question often comes back to how we pay for it at the federal, state and local levels. Many states are facing severe cutbacks in funding used to match the federal contribution, compounding the overall funding problem. Work is expected to continue in the next Congress to adopt a series of sustainable funding sources for transportation infrastructure; identify state and federal responsibilities for the funding of transportation; and create innovative financing options such as infrastructure banks, public-private partnerships or subsidized bonding programs.
3. Ensuring Safer Roads.
Deaths from traffic accidents dropped significantly in 2010, but so did the number of cars and trucks on the highways. As the economy turns around, keeping our roads safe will be an ongoing challenge. In 2010, much of the emphasis from the U.S Department of Transportation and state DOTs focused on distracted driving. These efforts will continue. But in 2011, transportation agencies will have a chance to join with a national roadway safety effort – Toward Zero Deaths – intended to eliminate roadway fatalities completely. Toward Zero Deaths will be unveiled in 2011, and will take a comprehensive approach that combines aspects of new technology, roadway design, law enforcement, and cultural change to achieve this goal.
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