ATLANTA - As Congress prepares to rewrite the nation?s federal transportation funding law, the Livable Communities Coalition has joined Transportation for America today in releasing a detailed plan to recreate the nation?s transportation program in order to build a smart, safe and clean transportation system that provides real choices to all Americans.
Developed in consultation with transportation professionals, public officials and stakeholders from Georgia and around the country, The Route to Reform outlines a renewed vision for the federal program as well as ways to pay for it. Federal funding for transportation is renewed every six years. Current funding legislation expires this year, and Congress is expected to take up new legislation later this year.
?As the existing program has lost focus and energy, we find ourselves with an aging yet incomplete transportation system that is not prepared to serve America in the 21st century,? said James Corless, director of the national nonprofit coalition Transportation for America (T4America). ?Our coalition is prepared to lend considerable support for a much larger investment in transportation, but we believe that only a reinvigorated, redirected federal program will win buy-in from our coalition members and American taxpayers in general.?
?The new transportation bill must help Georgia and metro Atlanta create safe, clean and efficient options for citizens to get around Georgia and our region,? said Jim Durrett, executive director of the Atlanta-based Livable Communities Coalition. ?Our residents and the business community know that Georgia and metro Atlanta need to have a 21st century transportation system to keep our business climate competitive and to improve our quality of life.
?Together with last year?s ground-breaking study on the need to transform state transportation spending ? Investing in Tomorrow?s Transportation Today, or IT3 ? and with support for innovative projects like high-speed rail from key decision makers like Georgia?s U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, The Route to Reform shows us the path forward.?
In its blueprint, T4America recommends that Congress:
- Articulate a vision, objectives, and performance targets for the national transportation program and hold state and local transportation agencies accountable for demonstrable progress toward those goals.
Restructure and consolidate federal programs for integration of different kinds of transportation, including rail.
Empower states, regions, and cities with direct transportation funding and greater flexibility to select projects.
- Create a unified transportation trust fund that would achieve balanced allocations of federal funds in a portfolio of rail, freight, highway, public transportation, and non-motorized transportation investments.
The Route to Reform breaks with convention by calling on Congress not to increase taxes to provide additional funding to the federal transportation program unless it also institutes critical reforms. In the summer of 2008, Congress had to patch the highway trust fund with an $8 billion infusion from the general fund. A similar fix may be needed again this summer, and long-term projections show that the current funding mechanisms will not meet future needs.
?Increased revenues for transportation are needed to pay for necessary upgrades to the federal program, but we can only support more money if it?s accompanied by a bold new vision for transportation,? said Durrett. ?As a nation, we want people to use less oil and gasoline, not more, so we are sunk in the long run if we rely only on the gas tax. We should look at a variety of potential revenue strategies, but that must go hand-in-hand with reforms to help spend these funds more wisely.?
The T4America analysts concluded that in the short run, it may be necessary to raise the federal gas tax, or to move to a sales tax on fuels or a surcharge on oil, in preparation for a transition to a tax based on vehicle miles traveled.
?Our nation?s transportation program has not been significantly upgraded since the 1950s when President Eisenhower created our federal highway system,? concluded Corless. ?Future economic competitiveness will rely upon innovative solutions that give Americans options and connect our cities, regions, and rural areas. The upcoming rewrite of our federal transportation law represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to develop a new national transportation vision and leave behind a new legacy for our children and grandchildren. The Route to Reform will help policy makers ensure that legacy is one they can be proud of.?
Read the report and its executive summary here
About Transportation for America
Transportation for America is a broad coalition of housing, environmental, equal opportunity, public health, urban planning, transportation and other organizations focused on creating a 21st
Century national transportation program. The coalition?s goal is to build a modernized infrastructure and healthy communities where people can live, work and play by aligning national, state, and local transportation policies with an array of issues like economic opportunity, climate change, energy security, health, housing and community development. www.t4america.org
About the Livable Communities Coalition
Formed in 2005, the Livable Communities Coalition is the metro Atlanta region?s smart growth catalyst. It unites 50 organizations working to change the way metro Atlanta grows by focusing on land use, transportation, housing, and the conservation of open green space and natural resources. Member organizations include regional leaders in the areas of aging, building and development, business, urban and landscape design, government, housing, planning, sustainable development, the environment, and transit and transportation alternatives. wwwlivablecommunitiescoalition.org