Last Monday’s Sun Corridor mega-region Beyond Traffic forum in Phoenix was a fascinating and necessary discussion – with stakes that are increasingly high.
I encourage everyone to read the Beyond Traffic framework that looks ahead to 2045 and outlines the infrastructure challenges that the Southwest and other mega-regions are facing. There’s no sugarcoating this; it’s sobering. For Arizonans who share my vision for an innovation-based, globally competitive export economy for our region, this was a wakeup call.
We don’t have to imagine what kind of interruption to commerce could happen when our major highway infrastructure fails. We got a taste of it live this summer when I-10 lost a single lane out in the California desert after a flash flood washed out a bridge. Think about this, the Beyond Traffic framework tells us that 65 percent of the roads in our country are in poor condition and the same for 25 percent of our bridges.
And the only gridlock that’s worse than what Beyond Traffic envisions is what we’re seeing in Congress right now. We have a crisis. I join President Obama and Secretary Anthony Foxx in calling on Congress to pass a bill this year that extends and makes whole the Highway Trust Fund...
Last weekend, the Federal Highway Administration, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, the Connecticut DOT (CTDOT), and New Haven area residents celebrated the opening of the highly anticipated Pearl Harbor Memorial “Q” Bridge. This $677 million bridge –of which nearly $590 million was federal funding– is a key part of the much larger $2 billion corridor project to improve I-95 through the New Haven area.
The original “Q” Bridge –so named because it spans the Quinnipiac River– was designed to accommodate up to 40,000 drivers each day. The new bridge, a 10-lane wonder, will accommodate triple that number...
When we published our latest Highway Trust Fund ticker last month, it created some confusion. Some observers misconstrued the numbers to indicate that the Highway Account of the Trust Fund will be “out of the woods” for many months to come. That is hardly the case. Indeed, the trust fund could be facing rocky seas and therefore need additional funding from Congress before the end of the year, potentially as soon as this coming November.
With the recent funding infusion that Congress authorized in July, we anticipate the cash balance of the highway account staying above zero until June 2016, but that is far from the whole story.
Given the volatility of revenues and expenditures and the uncertainty of very micro-level projections, DOT must consider employing methods to conserve cash once the balance of the highway account falls below a prudent threshold. The latest transfer from the General Fund keeps the account's cash balance above the prudent level of $4 billion, but only until November 2015.
At that time, DOT may be required to implement cash management procedures, and that will slow reimbursements to States for infrastructure work...
We’ve been talking a lot here lately —and with good reason— about the pressing need to rebuild and renew America's transportation system. Recent Fast Lane posts have emphasized the need for Congress to act on a long-term transportation bill that boosts investment in roads, bridges, and transit. And just yesterday, with the Highway Trust Fund running low and current transportation law set to expire, Secretary Foxx sent a letter to State DOT officials advising them of the impending deadline and its painful implications.
Often overlooked in this discussion, however, are America's counties.
If we want to improve the safety and resilience of our nation's roads, we can’t draw the line at Interstate highways, U.S. highways, or State highways; we must include America's County roads...
In June, we published graphs showing past balances and projected balances for the two Highway Trust Fund accounts, the Highways Account and the Mass Transit Account. Those graphs showed the Highways Account balance quickly approaching zero with the Mass Transit Account balance not far behind.
A month later, we've updated the data for both accounts to reflect June's activity. I'm sorry to report that the situation has not really changed, and both accounts are dwindling fast. In fact, we're nearing the threshold for the Highways Account where we have to institute cash management procedures...
Today we released a set of Fact Sheets showing the condition of transportation in all 50 states. It's not a pretty picture.
Grim data from just one of the 50 fact sheets DOT released today.
A nation's infrastructure is its economic backbone. And you don't need a history book to know that a big part of America's success has long been our willingness to invest in our transportation system. In return, our ability to get supplies to manufacturers, goods to market, and people where they need to go has helped us thrive.
But we've been investing in that ability less and less. And, as our willingness to invest has declined and transportation spending has decreased, it's no coincidence that —more and more— Americans in every state are experiencing the frustration of poor road conditions and congestion.
Congress has a scant 24 days until America's surface transportation law expires and our Highway Trust Fund crosses a dangerously low threshold. Although the current law wasn't really more than the 34th successive extension of previous law at pretty bare funding levels, even that is approaching a dead end.
If you're a Fast Lane reader, you know where I stand: this Congress should pass a long-term bill so States, regions, counties, and cities can plan more than 2 months ahead. And that bill should significantly increase investment in our Nation's roads, bridges, and transit systems so this country can continue to thrive.
We included those ideas and others --like faster project delivery so people can enjoy the benefits of transportation investments more quickly-- in the GROW AMERICA Act that we sent to Congress last March. But I keep looking at the calendar and wondering what we have to do to get a proposal like GROW through Congress and to President Obama's desk for his signature.
The good news is, I am hardly alone. Leaders across the country are adding their voices to this important campaign...
This week, as Congressional committees met to discuss ways to keep our country's Highway Trust Fund (HTF) solvent, Secretary Foxx urged them to adopt a long-term transportation bill with increased funding:
“The state of our nation’s infrastructure is not a partisan talking point; it is a problem facing all Americans. So I am encouraged that Members of Congress are asking the tough questions about how we will find solutions together. As I have said many times, we cannot build tomorrow's transportation system with yesterday's policy and yesterday's funding; I look forward to working with both parties to pass a long-term bill that aggressively boosts investment and changes outdated policies so we can build for the future.”
With a shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund approaching, cash management steps are not far away. Because the HTF supports critical roadwork by State DOTs, these cash management procedures will slow improvements and basic repairs on roads across the U.S.
To keep Americans informed, we've posted on our website the projected cash flows for the HTF's Highway Account and Mass Transit Account.
HTF Highway Account
HTF Mass Transit Account
Pass by a bus stop in downtown Los Angeles and you’ll see the faces of those waiting to use public transportation are diverse. Women, seniors, college students, African-Americans and Latinos take various forms of public transportation to get to work, school or even just to get connected to society.
Latinos rely especially heavily on public transportation.
1.7 million Latinos use public transit to commute to work.
3 million Latinos carpool.
And a combined 1 million Latinos bike, use a motorcycle or walk to work according to census data.
Public transportation is a critical lifeline for the Latino community. Like most Americans, we depend on it for economic and social mobility. When I was in college and law school, I relied on public transportation to get to class. I didn’t have a car and lived too far from campus to walk. I depended on the BART at the University of California, Berkeley and at UCLA Law School, I took the 1 bus from Santa Monica to downtown Los Angeles.
As we move forward, it’s important to remember the Latino community has a big stake in the transportation conversation...
I’m pretty excited about the productive week we've had here at DOT, and I'd like to share that sense of achievement and --more importantly-- promise with Fast Lane readers.
On Monday, we jumped out of the gate by sending a revamped GROW AMERICA Act to Congress. GROW is our legislative proposal for surface transportation that provides six years of funding certainty, increased investment in infrastructure, and smart policies that ensure taxpayers get more bang for their buck and that communities can enjoy the benefits of projects sooner. Experts all agree that America's transportation system needs more than a few potholes filled and bridges repaired. But we also need to start getting ahead of the curve like the world leader we have been since George Washington began supervising construction of a canal along the Potomac River. And GROW will help us do that.
In fact, all of this week's highlights point back to the GROW AMERICA Act...