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Looking Ahead

Election 2012 is over and we’re right back where we started – same president, same majorities in the House and Senate. Essentially nothing has changed except for the urgency to get the nation’s transportation crisis solved. With every passing day it becomes more urgent.

The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), a non-profit organization that “drives principled solutions through rigorous analysis, reasoned negotiation and respectful dialogue,” has just released a study entitled, “The Consequences of Reduced Federal Transportation Investment.”

Founded in 2007 by former Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker, Tom Daschle, Bob Dole and George Mitchell, BPC combines politically balanced policymaking with strong, proactive advocacy and outreach.

The study suggests that cutting federal funds for transportation, without more extensively reforming the existing surface transportation program and without making those cuts in a thoughtful manner that allows for careful consideration of the federal role, would be potentially devastating.

BPC recommends that Congress consider the following actions:

  • Expand federal revenues while providing a framework for increased state and local investment. Continued underinvestment in our nation’s transportation system will have substantial detrimental impacts in areas of national interest, for which the federal government should take responsibility. The short-term solution is the politically challenging but logistically simple action of increasing the federal gas tax. However, regardless of whether that can be achieved, Congress must provide states and metropolitan areas with better financing tools and assistance with their efforts to raise revenue.
  • If expenditures must be cut, programmatic reform is even more essential. When resources are severely constrained, the argument for undertaking greater programmatic reforms to better focus transportation spending on national goals becomes more, not less, compelling.
  • Programmatic reform should include competitive grant programs. Metropolitan transportation should have a prominent role in federal legislation. The report finds that a diminished federal role in transit programs could potentially be damaging to the nation’s economic growth.

Congress – which achieved next to nothing last session – would do well to read the report, and act upon its recommendations. Fast.

Mark S. Kuhar, editor
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