Washington, D.C. – Recognizing that continued underinvestment in transportation has “run headlong into a political and fiscal environment in which expanding federal expenditures for any purpose is increasingly difficult to discuss,” the Bipartisan Policy Center’s (BPC) National Transportation Policy Project (NTPP) today released a set of near-term actions that can be taken to restructure the nation’s surface transportation program. If adopted by the Administration and Congress in the next surface transportation authorization bill, the recommended framework would streamline and consolidate over 100 existing transportation programs into 10 core programs, make transportation spending more sustainable by authorizing a program at existing revenue levels, and begin the transition to a performance-based system that is better able to leverage non-federal resources.
The focus of the plan – Performance Driven: Achieving Wiser Investment in Transportation – is to reform, consolidate and scale back the existing federal transportation program and make it targeted toward a set of specific national goals, including economic growth, national connectivity, metropolitan accessibility, energy security and environmental protection, and safety.
NTPP’s plan has a strong bipartisan foundation and represents many groups who have a stake in ensuring the long-term sustainability of our transportation system. Under the leadership of former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer, former Congressman Sherwood Boehlert, former Senator Slade Gorton and former Congressman Martin Sabo, NTPP includes former Republican and Democratic members of Congress, local-elected officials, business and civic leaders, and transportation stakeholders and experts.
“It is more important than ever that we ensure that all federal resources directed to transportation are invested wisely,” said Congressman Boehlert at today’s press conference. “Most importantly, we believe it is imperative that Congress articulate specific national goals in the next surface transportation bill. That is the only way to move from a disparate, fragmented federal program to one that is performance-based and effectively prioritizes investment.”
To form the basis for its recommendations, NTPP evaluated and proposed either consolidation or elimination of existing transportation programs based on the extent to which each program advances national goals and leverages non-federal funding. As a result, NTPP’s consolidated structure has 10 core programs and cuts more than $14 billion in annual expenditures from the existing program.
“Today we are outlining a programmatic framework that calls for targeted investments that yield the greatest benefit, demonstrate the greatest returns and leverage resources outside of the federal government,” said Senator Gorton at today’s event. “While persuading Congress and the American people to support a substantial infrastructure program may be challenging, it is necessary for our nation’s future.”
To achieve its new programmatic structure, NTPP recommends placing a greater emphasis on managing and preserving existing transportation assets; creating a more robust, transportation planning process; developing a National Freight Strategic Plan; and providing funding to incentivize performance.
NTPP also calls for a greater leveraging of state, local and private funding sources to supplement constrained federal resources, the elimination of barriers to non-federal investment, and a restructuring of existing funding match requirements.
“It is nearly impossible to imagine that the comprehensive reforms that we recommend can be achieved without fundamental reform in the transportation planning process. Such changes will enable almost everything that we recommend in this new report, including, importantly, our capacity to invest scarce resources in the most beneficial programs and projects,” said Congressman Sabo in a prepared statement. “A more outcome- and performance-driven planning process is fundamental to ensuring that better investment decisions will be made.”
NTPP’s new report builds on its original report, which was released in June 2009. NTPP has long advocated for a transportation program that is accountable, has a clear sense of purpose, and is better equipped to meet the economic and environmental challenges facing the nation.
“The economic strength of our country is dependent on our ability to invest effectively in our transportation infrastructure,” said Mayor Archer in a prepared statement. “In the context of severe fiscal challenges and budgetary constraints, we need to make difficult choices and to consider trade-offs. But these constraints and limits can also provide us with the opportunity to accomplish significant programmatic reforms and to do more with less.”
Ashley Clark, Press Secretary