AAA’s Long-Term Recommendations- Federal Transportation Authorization
Transportation funds provided through the short-term economic recovery package should be considered a down payment on a much larger investment in transportation for the future. Beyond our short-term economic recovery needs, appropriate investment in transportation can make America stronger by enhancing the nation’s global competitiveness and ensuring safe, reliable mobility for all citizens. That longer-term investment will require commitment to a new transportation vision that re-thinks the status quo and re-evaluates existing programs and approaches.
It won’t be easy. The public has a significant and growing mistrust in the ability of government to deliver recognizable transportation improvements, as well as a cynicism toward federal government stewardship of the hundreds of billions of dollars tax-payers already pay for transportation projects and programs.
To reestablish trust with the motoring public, a clear vision, redefined federal priorities and increased accountability are required to ensure the long-term viability of the surface transportation program.
- Redefine a clear federal role tied to national priorities, similar to President Eisenhower’s vision for the National Interstate System.
- Streamline the number of federal programs (currently 108) to focus on true national priorities, such as:
- Economic growth (e.g., freight movement, congestion)
- National & regional connectivity
- Break down agency silos―Too often, government agencies function in a vacuum by erecting barriers on the free-flow of information and resources.
- Earmark Reform―To regain, maintain and enhance the public’s trust in federal transportation spending, earmarking should be eliminated or significantly reformed. If earmarking continues in any form, such projects must meet clearly established effectiveness and benefit criteria and have been previously identified in a state or regional transportation plan as high priorities. Such projects must be based on merit and ability to cost effectively improve mobility and traffic safety while ensuring transparency so there are no public surprises.
- Detailed metrics are needed to measure performance in all areas (e.g., congestion, safety, construction).
- Funding allocations should be linked to performance goals.
- Better data collection should be required to ensure success.
- Data―Increase focus on results and metrics in order to properly evaluate current safety programs to allow investment in those projects and programs that are truly having an impact. Funding should be provided for data systems improvements and necessary upgrades.
- Accountability―Move to a performance-driven, outcome-based system for safety. Comprehensive performance metrics will allow us to evaluate all federal program expenditures for traffic safety. Uniform performance standards will reveal to each state what its own data collection needs are, and will help each state to evaluate its current behavioral safety programs. Performance standards should be a prerequisite for any new system providing additional flexibility to state and local authorities.
- Collaboration―Increased collaboration among traffic safety professionals, public health specialists, and health communications experts is needed to incorporate the best available science on behavior modification. We also need to escape our current silo mentality and coordinate inter-agency and inter-disciplinary communications more effectively. Cooperation and joint planning at all levels of government between health, transportation and criminal justice system professionals will help restore trust, create accountability and deliver success.
- Revenues generated through taxes, fees and other charges to motorists must be fair and equitable and should be dedicated solely to meeting identified transportation needs.
- Funding alternatives to supplement or eventually replace motor vehicle fuel taxes must be carefully evaluated as to their ability to be efficiently implemented, accepted by the public, allocated fairly, fully dedicated to transportation needs, and resistant to fraud and evasion.
- Transportation fees, taxes and other revenue collected from motorists should fairly represent their use of the system, and all transportation system users should bear a proportionate share of financing the system.
- After program reforms and priorities are identified, all options to increase funding for transportation should be considered, including gas tax increases, tolling, congestion pricing and public-private partnerships.