OCTA CEO: Federal transportation bill on the right track

Posted on July 27, 2011 by Will Kempton

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.

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