Transportation Policy Group Calls for Greater Funding Scrutiny

June 10, 2009

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The Bipartisan Policy Center's National Transportation Policy Project has released its proposal for changing federal surface transportation policy, which includes restructuring federal programs, updating the criteria for formulas and creating a performance-based system
to tie transportation spending to broader national goals.

The new policy would aim to incorporate such national goals as economic growth, connectivity, accessibility, safety, energy security and environmental protection. Funding for transportation is politically driven, with no accountability and with little consideration of the benefits, according to the center. The members of the project hope to restructure the funding system, which currently has no federal requirement to optimize returns on public investments and no structure to reward outcomes or document them.

The proposal, created under the leadership of former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer, former Congressman Sherwood Boehlert, former Sen. Slade Gorton and former Congressman Martin Sabo, is bipartisan, the center said.

"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 Gorton, who serves as NTPP co-chair.

The project suggests narrowing the amount of programs down to six, which would be competitive and based on performance. The new system would award those dedicated to performance and overall preservation, including a connectivity program that would improve the condition and performance of existing transportation systems that connect the nation and a program that would enhance and preserve the performance of core assets such as highways, bridges, tunnels, and bus and rail transits in urban areas.

"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," said Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), an original co-founding chair of NTPP, as he commended the organization on its bottom-up approach.

The new funding system would measure project performance in areas including improved access, a more efficient national network, reduced corridor congestion and petroleum consumption, decreased CO2 emissions and reduced fatalities and injuries.

"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," said Sabo, NTPP co-chair.

States and regions would be measured against these goals and awarded or scrutinized based on the proposal's criteria.

"If we as a nation are going to invest in transportation, we ought to be able to see results," said Archer, another NTPP co-chair. "When you get a report back on what was accomplished, everybody wins."

To download a copy of the report, visit

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