Recommendations Call for Accountability: Links Funding to Performance for the First Time
June 9, 2009
Washington, D.C. - Calling its recommendations a “framework for comprehensive reform,” the Bipartisan Policy Center’s National Transportation Policy Project (NTPP) today released its plan for transforming federal surface transportation policy. If adopted by the Administration and Congress in this year’s authorization bill, the plan would constitute the first major overhaul of transportation policy in more than 50 years. It proposes restructuring federal programs, updating the criteria for formulas, and creating a performance-based system that directly ties transportation spending to broader national goals, including economic growth, connectivity, accessibility, safety, energy security and environmental protection.
Currently, transportation funding is distributed on a politically-driven basis with little analysis of benefits and no accountability for results.
The plan also has a strong bipartisan foundation. Under the leadership of former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer, former Congressman Sherwood Boehlert, former Senator Slade Gorton, and former Congressman Martin Sabo, the NTPP—a bipartisan group of 26 diverse members— produced its plan--Performance Driven: A New Vision for U.S. Transportation Policy--as a blueprint for a new national transportation system that is efficient, effective, and accountable for performance.
As Congress is scheduled to take up reauthorization of the nation’s surface transportation law, SAFETEA-LU, this year, NTPP is calling for a complete restructuring of the federal transportation funding system. To date, there is no federal requirement to optimize returns on public investments, and programs are not structured to reward outcomes, or even to document them. Moreover, existing programs do little to target federal support for transportation programs to further economic growth or link to jobs and productivity.
“One of the principal current problems is trying to coordinate over 100 different transportation programs that Congress has authorized over the course of half a century, while dealing with an aging and a declining infrastructure,” said NTPP co-chair and former Senator Slade Gorton.
The NTPP proposes narrowing these 100+ programs to a more manageable six core funding programs. The six programs would be competitive and performance-based. NTPP recommends “mode neutral” formula programs that award federal transportation dollars based on system condition and performance and focus on preserving the overall system including:
A connectivity program that would improve the condition and performance of existing transportation systems that connect the nation; and A program aimed at preserving and enhancing the performance of core assets such as highways, bridges, tunnels, and bus and rail transits in major metropolitan areas.
Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), an original co-founding chair of NTPP, attended today’s announcement and commended NTPP’s bipartisan report. He especially praised the NTPP for advocating a bottom-up approach to reform whereby states and metropolitan areas can develop their own solutions to transportation problems. “This idea, called mode-neutrality, enables states like Virginia to make their own decisions about how to spend federal money as long as their investments meet accountability standards and promote national goals.”
NTPP co-chair former Congressman Martin Sabo says that today’s transportation challenges are complex, and go well beyond roads and transit: “We have to make our transportation system more fuel-efficient and cleaner, we have to deal with the carbon issue, and we have the challenge of reducing our dependence on fossil fuel.”
NTPP also proposes holding all funding recipients accountable for their contributions to national goals. A new system of metrics would measure project performance in several areas: improved access, a more efficient national network, reduced corridor congestion and petroleum consumption, reduced CO2 emissions, and reduced fatalities and injuries. States and regions whose investments performed well against those goals would be entitled to bonus funding; areas that did not would be subject to greater federal scrutiny in receiving transportation funding.
“If we as a nation are going to invest in transportation, we ought to be able to see results. When you get a report back on what was accomplished, everybody wins,” said NTPP co-chair and former mayor of Detroit Dennis Archer.
An efficient, safe, and results-driven transportation system is vital to staying competitive in a global economy. According to NTPP co-chair former Congressman Sherwood Boehlert, “We’ve brought together people with good, solid backgrounds, who know the subject matter. We’ve been fully committed to developing a product that will inform the administration and Congress as they consider the future of U.S. transportation. And I think we’ve succeeded in mapping out a new and visionary direction for transportation policy—one that will undoubtedly help us to achieve our goals as a nation.”
Performance Driven: A New Vision for U.S. Transportation Policy is rooted in the work done by members of the NTPP since it was established by the Bipartisan Policy Center in February 2008. Its charge was to create a new vision of U.S. surface transportation policy that would be adopted by the administration and Congress and ultimately impact the authorization of the federal surface transportation bill of 2009. To that end, the Project has been explicitly bipartisan in its approach and in its membership. NTPP is chaired by four former elected officials – two Republicans and two Democrats – and includes a coalition of transportation experts and business and civic leaders with a broad diversity of political views and professional experiences. Its report outlines comprehensive, long-term recommendations for reforming the country’s transportation system. To download a copy of the report, go to www.bpcntpp.org.
National Transportation Policy Project