Incorporating performance and accountability for results into transportation funding decisions is critical to improving results. However the current approach presents challenges. Says the report, “…incorporating performance and accountability for results into transportation funding decisions is critical to improving results. However the current approach presents challenges. The Federal-Aid Highway program, in particular, distributes funding through a complicated process in which the underlying data and factors are ultimately not meaningful because they are overridden by other provisions designed to yield a largely predetermined outcome – that of returning revenues to their state of origin.”
In other words, trying to meet the rate of return criteria leaves little or no room to allow for performance and accountability factors. The Washington complaint as the GAO sees it in this report is that once the money is out of their hands they have previous little control over when, where and how it is spent.
So, how do you change that?
Well, the GAO says it’s trying: “For three highway programs that were designed to meet national and regional transportation priorities, we have recommended that Congress consider a competitive, criteria-based process for distributing federal funds.”
The report notes that with, “many surface transportation programs, goals are numerous and conflicting, and the federal role in achieving the goals is not clear. Many of these programs have no relationship to the performance of either the transportation system or of the grantees receiving federal funds, and do not use the best tools and approaches to ensure effective investment decisions.”
Performance and accountability for results must be considered in transportation funding standards. But according to the GAO, the need to return revenues to their state of origin overwhelms that process.
In the end, the report recognizes the inevitable: “A fund that relies on increasing the use of motor fuels to remain solvent might not be compatible with the strategies that may be required to address these challenges.” This of course raised a sequential question: If not the HTF, what? The GAO argues that in the near future policy discussions will need to consider what the most adequate and appropriate transportation financing systems will be and “whether or not the current system continues to make sense.” v
Let’s Treat Infrastructure Maintenance Like Debt Service (DIGITAL EXTRA)
By Eugene W. Harper, Jr.
THE BOND BUYER (www.bondbuyer.com)
We decry the decrepit state of our “crumbling” infrastructure, but we have yet to adopt legal rules needed to provide for its ongoing maintenance and repair.
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