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.
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Read our METRO blog, "Carmageddon II: Off the rails" here.
Seeing a canine passenger on mass transit is not uncommon, but the reasons why a dog might catch the train or hop a bus are varied (remember Eclipse, the Seattle Lab mix that uses the bus, often on her own, to get to the dog park?). Most public transit pooches are working —as K-9 officers or service animals. In the Philadelphia region, other animals — in approved carriers only—are permitted to ride the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s buses, trains and trolleys. However, a new pilot program underway by SEPTA allows registered therapy dogs volunteering at two Philadelphia hospitals to use two designated bus routes to travel to their sites.
To be sure, there is no substitute for offering high-quality bus or rail transit service, but many transit agencies skimp when it comes to marketing, outreach, and education and, as a result, the public often has no idea how good the service may actually be. Buses also have an image problem in many communities, which proper marketing could help address. Witness the huge sums spent by automakers in crafting the image of their automobiles.
The Uber website proudly states that, “Uber is evolving the way the world moves. By seamlessly connecting riders to drivers through our apps, we make cities more accessible, opening up more possibilities for riders and more business for drivers. From our founding in 2009 to our launches in over 200 cities today, Uber's rapidly expanding global presence continues to bring people and their cities closer.” Such hype is common on corporate websites, but when the braggadocio is backed up by an article in the Wall Street Journal that discloses a valuation of $41 billion their ambitious words take on relevance.
As the world changes with the rapid advancement of connected devices and technologies, so must the transportation industry. In a business area where change is sluggish, DOTs across the country must adapt quickly to the evolving technologies that are going to impact their operations and budget. There are at least three technologies that will have immense impact over the next two decades on how we travel and how state transportation departments react to provide mobility — connectedness, big data and automation.
Around the world, artwork of all forms adorns transportation centers, stations and bus shelters. While many of these statues, paintings, mosaics and sculptures are permanently installed as part of a station’s architecture, transportation organizations can use their spaces for art exhibitions that not only make transit hubs more aesthetically pleasing for commuters, but also inspire budding artists. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) recently partnered with two organizations to showcase the artistic talent of youth from the Greater Philadelphia region and around the world.