Federal Focus on Infrastructure Will Benefit America’s Transportation System & Our Regional Economies
Transportation and infrastructure are expected to be newly debated by Congress in response to the White House’s call for rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure. Despite being the foundation on which our nation’s regional, national and global economies are built, America’s infrastructure and transportation system are underfunded and lag other leading nations.
Today there is a continued national focus on modernizing America’s infrastructure and investing more in our national and interdependent transportation system. But it is clear that a range of thinking will be required to address mobility issues across our 3.8 million-square-mile country.
Federally supported projects yield very tangible results throughout America, but current funding levels and financing tactics must be bolstered because the infrastructure needs in our nation are diverse. As examples, some states might have a pressing plan to improve their airports, rural pockets might not benefit from tolling, and multimodal needs differ from public transit to port security and safety technology.
The Americans for Transportation Mobility (ATM) Coalition continues to emphasize that a long-term and broad vision are key because short-term thinking will cost our country much more. Along with accountability, streamlining permitting and workforce development, sustainable investment policies are linchpins to ensuring a faster, better and safer transportation system.
“The private sector and states investing in infrastructure are necessary, but also critically vital is exploring raising revenue through the federal gas tax,” says Americans for Transportation Mobility Executive Director Ed Mortimer. “Bipartisan policies, new legislation and funding ensure the long-term commitment our nation needs to modernize America’s infrastructure. Time and time again, we see there are major projects that do not move forward without designated federal revenue, and forward-looking policies regarding financing, grants and incentives.”
The last federal surface-transportation legislation, known as the FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act, was passed in 2015; however, research reveals that the nation faces an infrastructure shortfall of $2 trillion, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).
As a result of the FAST Act, for example, 18 inaugural infrastructure projects were chosen in 2016 for close to $800 million in federal grants as part of the FASTLANE (Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-term Achievement of National Efficiencies) initiative. The grants were combined with other funding from federal, state, local, and private sources.
The Arizona Department of Transportation (DOT) was selected for $54 million for bottleneck improvements along I-10 between Phoenix and Tucson, with plans also for new dust storm early-warning technology to be installed. In Virginia, the Atlantic Gateway project — an I-95 corridor strategy to improving mobility across the Eastern seaboard — was plucked for substantial investments via combining a $165 million FASTLANE grant with public and private funding from multiple partners, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Some other grantees were the Arlington Memorial Bridge Reconstruction project in Washington, D.C.; the Port of Savannah International Multi-Modal Connector; the I-10 Freight Corridor Rehabilitation and Expansion in Lafayette, La.; US 69/75 Bryan County in Calera, Okla.; South Lander Street Grade Separation and Railroad Safety Project in Seattle; Truck Parking Availability Systems (new technology) in Florida; the Coos Bay Rail Line/Tunnel Rehabilitation Project in three rural Oregon counties; the Cross Harbor Freight Program for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey; and the Strander Boulevard Extension and Grade Separation Phase 3 in Tukwila, Wash.
The FASTLANE program was replaced by the INFRA (Infrastructure for Rebuilding America) program through dedicated discretionary funding, and regional governing bodies were encouraged to apply for funds.