December 15, 2008
In this issue of
15 Bids & Proposals
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APTA Launches ‘Transportation Tuesdays’
“Transportation Tuesdays,” a new series of after-work transportation discussions to be held at the APTA offices in Washington the first Tuesday of the month, began on Dec. 2 and featured Robert Puentes, senior fellow and director of the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Infrastructure Initiative. He spoke about how public transportation infrastructure investment can have an important impact as part of both short-term stimulus legislation and an ongoing legislative agenda.
Although transportation plays a major role in the national economy—it represents 11 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product and helps other parts function—Puentes said the lack of a federal framework has caused construction and maintenance to suffer. “We must connect transportation to the legislative agenda and look to the future and new ideas,” he said.
“The national transportation plan needs a makeover,” said Puentes. He stated that improved transportation infrastructure could benefit several kinds of “broad negative economic impact” such as traffic congestion, greenhouse gas buildup, and increased household spending levels. He cited statistics showing the sharp decline in transportation investment levels from the 1950s through 1973 – the era of the Interstate Highway System – to just 1 percent of the federal budget in the 1990s.
Puentes noted the “perfect storm” of economic, energy, and environmental challenges currently affecting transportation and the “rapidly, massively changing economy.” To create “a new way for transportation,” he offered several necessary components:
* Fix what’s broken and build out green infrastructure.
* Ensure that local municipalities have a role in programming transportation funds, including direct operating support.
* Keep the process transparent and accessible, allowing the public to know how the funds are being spent.
* Send the right signals regarding the legislative agenda. He called on the federal government to be a “strong, deliberate partner” in the process; to set strict criteria to ensure that high-return areas receive the greatest investment; and to target investments to the needs of critical sites.
* Create a 21st-Century Infrastructure Agenda, including the appointment of an infrastructure czar; reform of the federal surface transportation program; and a re-evaluation of metrics and performance measures.
Regarding the condition of U.S. transportation infrastructure, Puentes emphasized: “We can’t stop traveling, but we can change how we travel. It’s critical for the stimulus to chart a new way for transportation to operate.”
This presentation had close to 100 in attendance, from such varied agencies and organizations as the Federal Transit Administration, U.S. DOT, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, World Bank, National League of Cities, U.S. Conference of Mayors, Federal Maritime Commission, and area law and consulting firms.