AGC, ARTBA COMMENT ON REPORT TO CONGRESS
The National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission’s report to Congress - Transportation for Tomorrow - has been called “bold and visionary” by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) for providing a thorough and comprehensive vision and framework for the future of surface transportation policy in the United States.
“The nation is at a crossroads, and Americans know that our transportation system is aging, over-crowded, and in some cases literally crumbling,” says Stephen E. Sandherr, AGC’s chief executive officer. “For nearly two years the Commission tackled these tough issues and weighed disparate views and, by placing the national interest above parochial concerns, carefully developed a bold vision for the future of our nation’s surface transportation network.
“This report links the future growth in the system to achieving measurable national goals by scrapping the current system to advance areas of clear national interest, such as system maintenance, congestion relief, rural connectivity, freight transportation, safety, energy security and environmental stewardship,” Sandherr continues.
The Commission outlines a plan that will accommodate and enhance future economic growth. The plan addresses inefficiencies in the federal system, and it focuses on an evolving user fee that better represents the actual cost of planning, building and maintaining the nation’s transportation system.
The report recommends reforming and refocusing the system to maximize the impact of future investments. The reformed program would focus on national interests, holding funding recipients accountable for strict standards of performance, requiring cost benefit analysis, removal of wasteful bureaucratic steps in the process, and ensuring that transportation partners at the local, state and national level continue and increase their support for transportation.
One of the major recommendations is to put in place a more consolidated program to advance areas of clear national interest. The Commission recommends comprehensive local, state, and national planning efforts to identify and prioritize investment needs, estimated to be in the range of $225-$340 billion annually. This number is consistent with the investment needs for highways, transit, freight and passenger rail as identified by AASHTO in its comprehensive transportation document, “A Vision for the 21st Century,” released in July 2007.
Following reforms to the program, the Commission recommends that the federal government significantly increase its financial support for surface transportation and contribute approximately 40 percent of the capital. It also proposes the creation of an independent, non-political commission - titled the National Surface Transportation Commission - to make recommendations to Congress on specific revenue adjustments to implement the national surface transportation strategic plan.
The report also identifies waste and delay due to burdensome and lengthy project delivery requirements, such as the environmental review and permitting processes, as an area to be addressed.
“The U.S. faces daunting surface transportation challenges that increasingly detract from the quality of life of all Americans and the ability of the business community to compete in the global marketplace. The Commission’s report clearly recognizes this reality and the need for bold new action to deliver a 21st century transportation network.
“Today’s release of the Commission report should be the official starting point for the debate over the reauthorization of the federal surface program in 2009,” says Pete Ruane, president and CEO of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA). “Twelve highly qualified individuals from diverse professional backgrounds have spent almost two years thoroughly evaluating this situation. Their recommendations deserve serious consideration by all federal policymakers.