Transportation Is Moving in Washington, D.C.
Transportation discussions in Washington, D.C., have taken shape quickly this year. Everyone agrees that a long-term solution will be better than another short-term fix, and there is also broad agreement that we need a new vision for our nation’s transportation strategy. The only question is whether members of Congress and the Administration will all be able to agree on what that vision should be in time to beat the May 31 deadline for the Highway Trust Fund.
Here’s a quick overview of some of the key developments over the past several weeks.
President Calls for 21st-Century Infrastructure
In his 2015 State of the Union address, President Obama tied infrastructure directly to “building the most competitive economy anywhere, the place where businesses want to locate and hire.” He elaborated on how infrastructure underpins the entire economy: “21st-century businesses need 21st-century infrastructure—modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains, and the fastest internet…. Let’s pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could…make this country stronger for decades to come.”
On February 2, President Obama released his budget proposal, which includes a $478 billion, six-year proposal for transportation funding. We’ll have more on the President’s budget in future blog posts.
“A System of Systems”: Achieving a Truly Comprehensive National Transportation Network
At the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board in January, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx laid out the framework for a 30-year national transportation plan. Later this year, the Department of Transportation will issue a report detailing this 30-year vision for new and replacement transportation infrastructure.
A key aspect of the Secretary’s approach is looking at American transportation in a holistic way. “Transportation is a system of systems. The idea that we’re looking at the system comprehensively is the thrust of this report.”
Foxx noted that some areas of the country are growing faster than others—such as the South and the West—and they need expanded transportation infrastructure to meet increasingly larger populations. Changing transportation patterns and emerging technologies will shape how new public transit develops. For instance, payments systems supported by smartphones will streamline operations, improve connections, and enable multi-modal transportation. Foxx also said that increased biking and walking “could be a real game-changer.”
As we discussed last week, Secretary Foxx has invited all Americans to participate in the development of our nation’s plan for transportation in his Google Fireside Chat, “Beyond Traffic.” If you missed the Fireside Chat, you can view a recording of it online here.
Will Bipartisanship Prevail?
At the end of the State of the Union address, the President made a forceful call for bipartisan cooperation. That call for cooperation has also been heard from Secretary Foxx and congressional leadership, particularly Representative Bill Shuster (R-PA), chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
In a Washington Post article announcing the bipartisan Twitter Town Hall to be held February 11, Representative Shuster and Secretary Foxx confirmed their intention to cooperate and collaborate on finding a solution. Secretary Foxx affirmed, ““There are no Republican or Democratic potholes. This country needs to see people on both sides of the aisle finding ways to work together.” Rep. Shuster added, “On both sides of the aisle, on both sides of the Capitol, on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, everybody is talking about [the urgent need for] a long-term [transportation] bill… I’m certain the secretary and I could find a number that we agreed on. It might be a little different than [Rep.] Paul Ryan and [Sen.] Orrin Hatch, it might be a little different than [the Office of Management and Budget], but that’s something we could work through.”
Making Sure the Voice of Public Transportation Is Heard Loud and Clear
We are enthusiastic and optimistic about the outlook for a long-term transportation funding solution this year, and we want to ensure that solution includes dedicated funding that will meaningfully improve and expand public transportation nationwide.
We’ll keep you updated as the debate continues, and let you know what you can do—like submitting questions to #StuckInTraffic for the Twitter Town Hall on February 11—to help keep Congress and the Administration focused on public transportation as one of the major pillars of our nation’s transportation future.