Transportation Officials Seek Flexible Federal Infrastructure Funding

City trams in San Francisco.

City trams in San Francisco. Shutterstock

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

Some states and localities have struggled to curb congestion because of the limited funding available for pedestrian, bicycle and transit infrastructure.

WASHINGTON — State and local transportation officials told Congress on Wednesday they don’t just want more federal dollars for infrastructure but also increased spending flexibility.

Testifying before the House highways and transit subcommittee, Metropolitan Transportation Commission Executive Director Therese McMillan said the San Francisco Bay Area relies on flexible funding from two key federal programs.

Money from the Surface Transportation Block Grant, or STBG, and Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality, or CMAQ, programs has been used to prod Bay Area cities and counties to build more housing near existing transit stops and transportation services. The projects improve mobility access, encourage use of modes other than cars and curb congestion, McMillan said.

Now the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations, which McMillan belongs to, wants Congress to invest more funds in STBG and allocate block grants on a regional basis— restoring the local distributed share to 62.5 percent if not higher, she said.

“Directing more dollars to metropolitan areas serves all of our interests,” McMillan said. “The Bay Area and other metro areas continue to drive national economic output, and in these areas new innovations are most often made and new technologies are being developed and deployed.”

About 20 percent of Washington state’s transportation budget comes from federal funding, but most of it goes toward infrastructure preservation “because it’s not a particularly flexible form of funding,” said Roger Millar, the state’s transportation secretary.

About 40 percent of trips Washington residents take are less than a mile, he said, and 60 percent are made by car.

“And the reason people drive a car is it’s the only safe way they can make that trip because we haven’t invested in the pedestrian infrastructure, we haven’t invested in the bicycle infrastructure and we haven’t invested in the transit infrastructure to make that possible,” Millar said. “That kind of flexibility would be very helpful to us.”

The Trump administration released a $4.7 trillion budget plan Monday that included a familiar proposal for $200 billion in infrastructure investment over 10 years, beginning with $5 billion in fiscal year 2020. A long-term reauthorization of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation, or FAST, Act that addresses the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund is also proposed.

Currently, the trust fund is only partially covered by the federal gas tax with the remainder having to be borrowed.

“The fuel tax—because of the more efficient vehicles we have, because of alternative fuels coming onto the market—is a flat funding source, and it does not have a sustainable future,” Millar said. “The alternatives to the motor fuel tax are all unpopular, but how many popular taxes do you know? Whether it’s a road user charge or congestion pricing or some other way of funding the transportation system, I think what all of us agree on is that it should be user-based; it should be a fee for service.”

Lawmakers last reauthorized the FAST Act—the first full authorization in a decade—in 2015, but it didn’t increase infrastructure funding and the law expires in 2020.

The uncertainty of reauthorization has made it hard to for state and local governments to draw up 40-year infrastructure plans, McMillan said, and they’ve had to fill in federal revenue gaps.

In 2017, California passed a transportation funding package with a wide array of user fees—including increasing the gas tax 12 cents to 41.7 cents a gallon and indexing it to inflation—generating an estimated $5 billion annually.

A year earlier, Washington State increased its gas tax 23 cents to 37.5 cents a gallon. But the state still has a $700 million-a-year unfunded infrastructure preservation backlog, Millar said.

“We have a bit of cognitive dissonance this week,” said U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat and chairman of the full House transportation committee. “We have the president’s budget, which again proposes cuts pretty much across the board in transportation, on one hand, but then talks about the fairy dust of leveraging $200 billion of federal money into $1 trillion of investment—something we all know is impossible.”

DeFazio called the proposed combination of asset recycling, privatization and tolling “fanciful” but said the fact the House Ways and Means committee held its first substantive infrastructure funding meeting in almost a decade last week was “progress.”

Some Republicans defended Trump’s infrastructure proposal dating back to last year as, at least, a starting point.

“I understand the outcry at the local and the state level over the White House’s plan, which increased the financial burden on states and local governments. But I also think the intent behind it is one that we shouldn’t reject out of hand,” said Rep. Mike Gallagher, a Wisconsin Republican. “To the extent I understand it, and I don’t speak for the White House, it was to force us at the state and local level to prioritize projects and think, on a 30-year time horizon, about how we maintain projects effectively or fix the projects that are crumbling now.”

San Antonio is the seventh-largest and fastest-growing city in the U.S., and its Connect SA program intends to integrate all infrastructure investments into first- and last-mile transportation technology and a bus rapid transit network spanning its 500 square miles.

A regional rail line along the corridor connecting the city to Austin “holds enormous promise,” said San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg, especially because his city is anticipated to grow by 1 million people between now and 2040.

“We have a menu of local revenue options to fund this investment, but a federal partnership is absolutely necessary for success,” Nirenberg said. “Our cities are rapidly growing, and we have to provide more transit choices to alleviate traffic congestion and to grow our economy. The U.S. is now the most congested developed nation in the world.”

Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

FEATURED CASE STUDIES
Powered By The Atlas
Integrating Complete and Green Streets for Climate-Resilient Sustainable Streets
San Mateo County, CA, USA
Major improvements in Service issue resolution at St. Catharines Transit
2012 First Street Louth, St. Catharines, ON L2S 3V9, Canada
Quick Launch of Ferry Reservation System Provides Access for Point Roberts Residents During COVID-19
Bellingham, WA, USA

NEXT STORY: Using Augmented Reality to 3D-Map Underground Infrastructure

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.