Recently, congressional leaders and U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) took the necessary steps to invest in America’s transportation future by releasing the federal transportation reauthorization bill.
The proposed six-year bill outlines $35 billion in annual funding for transportation projects along with changes to current programs and processes. While this represents a decrease in financial support for transportation, it does provide a sustainable funding level through revenue paid into the Highway Trust Fund.
This bill puts America on the right track to making much-needed transportation improvements throughout the country while creating good-paying American jobs. And the faster our federal partners can match local investments, the sooner we can turn the economy around.
One area that can be an impediment to this is getting projects to construction. There are many hurdles keeping projects stuck in the development process, and I applaud Chairman Mica for including key provisions in the bill that will break down the bureaucratic barriers to project delivery and expedite project implementation.
Recommendations in the bill include making the environmental review process more efficient, integrating planning and programming approaches, and delegating the responsibility for environmental review to states.
The Senate also released an outline of its version of the transportation reauthorization bill last week, which maintains funding at current levels by utilizing resources outside the Highway Trust Fund. The outline includes elements to accelerate project delivery such as expanding the use of innovative contracting methods and allowing for early right-of-way acquisitions.
U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), as chair of the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee, also needs to be commended for her attention to this important component of the next transportation bill.
While including elements in the bill that speed up the delivery process are a good start to changing the culture of micromanaging and risk aversion, we must continue to encourage Congress to ensure necessary process changes are included in the final bill.
Infrastructure projects are one of the best ways to create jobs and keep America moving, but there are many barriers that add significant delays. We can break through those barriers by implementing the recommendations from the Breaking Down Barriers initiative to help move projects forward.
Breaking Down Barriers is a national initiative led by the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) to expedite project delivery, without sacrificing the environment, and accelerate the creation of more than 800,000 jobs in the U.S.
I will talk more in detail about this initiative in the coming months, but for now, we’ll keep a close eye on the progress Congress makes toward passing a transportation bill that will lay the groundwork for funding vital transportation improvements throughout the country.
In case you missed it...
Read our METRO blog, "Carmageddon II: Off the rails" here.
While PTC may have just recently entered the consciousness of the public at-large, it has been an issue for freight and commuter rail systems since Congress passed the Rail Safety Improvement Act (RSIA) (P.L. 110-432) in 2008 following the collision between a Metrolink commuter train and a Union Pacific freight train in Los Angeles. Since that time, rail organizations have been working toward meeting the federally-mandated PTC implementation deadline of December 31, 2015. With less than six months to go, several commuter rail systems have said that, not only will they not meet the deadline, they will need several more years before having full PTC implementation on their trains.
Disruptive technologies and the new era of information sharing are helping to evolve and advance public transportation in our nation’s greatest cities. Nearly 300 mayors and government officials convened in San Francisco June 19-22 for the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ 83rd Annual Meeting, featuring remarks from President Obama and former U.S. Secretary of State and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. I was invited to speak in front of these influential government leaders to discuss “Technology and the Transformation of Urban Transportation.” This article will give readers an inside look at the conversation.
In times of disaster or tragedy, public transit agencies are frequently called upon to assist their communities and other transportation organizations. In case of fire, evacuation or accident, buses may be used to shelter or transport the displaced or injured, or serve as a respite site for first responders.
As a city, Leipzig is an excellent example of the German principals of transport planning and service as well as eastern Germany’s long history. The city has benefitted from large amounts of investment in infrastructure over the years since German reunification and most transport systems seem to be new or rebuilt, expanded and in a very good current state of repair. The most notable element in the transport mix is inevitably the enormous and historic main railway station, which is one of the largest, but certainly not busiest, in Europe.
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s Regional (commuter) Rail system was inherited from the Pennsylvania and Reading Railroads and the infrastructure in many sections of the system has been serving the Philadelphia area for more than 100 years. Fifteen years ago, overhead catenary system (OCS) failures were a common occurrence on SEPTA Regional Rail, a result of fatigue cracks and wear. The all too common OCS failures were frustrating for SEPTA customers who occasionally found it difficult to depend on train service for their travels and for SEPTA, whose crews were constantly working to repair and maintain the system.