Calling the federal approach to transportation broken, US Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters said it’s time for a new, different and better approach. Among way of funding the new plan she suggested direct pricing options like tolling and empowering states to take advantage of the over $400 billion available worldwide for infrastructure investments from the private sector.
In describing the present Administration’s new approach, Secretary Peters said, “Our plan will make it easier to pay for and build roads and transit systems. It will deliver fewer traffic tie ups, better transit services and a stronger economy. It will make our roads safer and give Americans new confidence that the money they invest in transportation will actually deliver results.”
Among other aspects of the plan is creation of a Metropolitan Innovation fund to reward cities “willing to combine a mix of effective transit investments, dynamic pricing of highways and new traffic technologies.”
The new approach seeks to replace the current 102 federal transportation programs with eight intermodal programs. There will also be a streamlined federal review process to contain the same environmental and planning requirements as they do today, but with a reduction of the present 13-year average for designing and building new highways in the US.
The Secretary claims that the new framework will: Renew federal focus on maintaining and improving performance on the Interstate Highway System; address urban congestion and give state and local leaders greater flexibility to invest in their transit and highway priorities; create accountability measurers to ensure investments in transportation will actually deliver results; refocus emphasis on safety using technology and data-driven approaches, while giving states greater flexibility to address their specific safety challenges; and streamline the federal review process for new transportation projects.
These proposals will not go unquestioned and promise to be the focus of a great deal of debate by many interested parties well into the next Administration. In fact, immediately upon the Secretary’s announcement of the new approach the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) called the plan nothing more than “slash and burn” policy.
Particularly with reference to public-private partnerships, OOIDA executive vice president, Todd Spencer, argued that, “The administration is on its way out, putting a For Sale sign on our highways as a last ditch effort to reward their buddies on Wall Street.”
Peters has personally briefed Members of Congress on the plan. “While I understand that this plan represents a significant departure from the status quo,” she notes. “I hope that Congress will shed partisan labels and come together to consider a piece of legislation that will keep our transportation system viable well into the next decade.”
Related story: What the future holds for infrastructure (Fleet Owner)