Washington, D.C. – In a letter to Senate leadership today, a bipartisan group of transportation stakeholders convened by the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) urges the Senate to complete action on the surface transportation bill after further improving the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) legislation.
Click here to read the full letter, which is signed by former Senator Slade Gorton, former Representatives Martin Sabo and Sherwood Boehlert, and former Mayor of Detroit Dennis Archer. All served as co-chairs of BPC’s National Transportation Policy Project. Former FAA Administrator Jane Garvey, BPC Visiting Scholar Emil Frankel, and Rob Atkinson, former Chair of the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission, also signed the letter along with other leading transportation voices.
The letter urges Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to extend the existing tolling and user charge pilot programs, and allow all states and metropolitan regions that wish to participate in these pilot programs to do so. By giving state and local governments greater flexibility and by extending the Federal Highway Administration’s ability to authorize tolling and highway pricing pilot programs, states would be better able to leverage federal funds.
“As the nation’s transportation system evolves, state and local governments should not be unduly constrained in their abilities to fund sorely needed and vital transportation improvements through reasonable fees on direct users of those facilities. Added flexibility in raising capital through the elimination or reduction of federal barriers to tolling or pricing will enable projects in heavily traveled and economically significant regions to proceed, in circumstances in which public resources may be inadequate,” says the letter.
Similarly, the ability to establish these state and local revenue streams would greatly enhance the effectiveness of the substantially expanded Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program that MAP-21 proposes, and would encourage increased private investment in surface transportation projects. “Current fiscal constraints highlight the need for states and metropolitan regions to be more self-reliant in raising and investing resources. MAP-21 offers significant steps toward improving transportation infrastructure, and the removal of these federal barriers would greatly improve the impact and benefits of this legislation,” the letter concludes.
Last year, BPC released a blueprint of how available funds can be used with greater focus, accountability, and results to advance critical national needs and priorities for our surface transportation programs. The plan, Performance Driven: Achieving Wiser Investment in Transportation, recommended reforms to consolidate and scale back the existing federal transportation program and to target scarce federal resources to a set of specific national goals. Those goals include advancing economic growth, improving national connectivity, promoting metropolitan accessibility, improving energy security and environmental sustainability, and fostering safety.