How best to get our economy and jobs back: Lessons from ARRA

The current COVID-19 pandemic has created unique transportation challenges for cities and states. This includes everything from maintaining transit with plummeting ridership to facing a needed economic recovery with major decreases in the taxes that pay for transportation maintenance and improvements. With the CARES Act passed and more stimulus and recovery funding being considered, the national experience with the ARRA funding from the last recession might hold lessons for how to jump-start the economy and job creation.

National Opportunity Zones Ranking Report

The newly created federal Opportunity Zones program will likely go down as the largest and most significant federal community development initiative in U.S. history. One way to make the most of that investment is by directing state transportation funds to further catalyze economic development in those distressed communities. This report helps identify which Opportunity Zones should be prioritized for investment in order to deliver positive economic, environmental, and social returns. It ranks 7,800+ Opportunity Zones, broken out by state, according to their smart growth potential and current social equity. It also provides a policy framework and case studies to ensure equitable, inclusive development in Opportunity Zones through transportation, land use, and development decisions.

Federal bill continues support for transportation programs

The new federal “omnibus” appropriation bill, enacted March 23, provides over $86 billion for the U.S. Department of Transportation, a record funding amount and an increase of almost $10 billion from U.S. DOT’s FY ‘17 funding levels. Road, transit, and rail programs all see funding increases. The FY 18 funding levels show Congress’s commitment to robust federal investment for important state and local infrastructure projects.

Avoiding a government shutdown, Congress agrees to fund popular transportation programs

On May 4, Congress passed a spending deal to fund the government through the end of the current fiscal year (FY2017) that ends on September 30, 2017. In this agreement, Congress accommodated President Trump’s requests for more defense and security spending but maintained and even increased funding for many programs that the Administration had proposed to cut or eliminate. And this ended up being good news for transportation projects around the country.

Avoiding a government shutdown, Congress agrees to fund popular transportation programs

On May 4, Congress passed a spending deal to fund the government through the end of the current fiscal year (FY2017) that ends on September 30, 2017. In this agreement, Congress accommodated President Trump’s requests for more defense and security spending but maintained and even increased funding for many programs that the Administration had proposed to cut or eliminate. And this ended up being good news for transportation projects around the country.

CBO report suggests changes to increase productivity of federal highway program

The Congressional Budget Office just released a new report that outlines problems with the way the federal government spends money on highways and suggests some potential fixes. The report argues that financial challenges have made it even more important that highway funding is spent in the most productive way possible, i.e., maintenance should be prioritized over expansion and spending should better correspond to highways’ use and economic value.

Conflict over drunk driving penalties divide safety advocates

As Congress hashed out the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, one area of heated debate centered on how to effectively reduce drunk driving. The debate has focused on whether states should require that everyone convicted of drunk driving—including first-time offenders—install an ignition interlock device in their vehicle. Opponents have argued that these funds should be made available to states with 24/7 sobriety programs for repeat offenders as well.

Politico examines Wisconsin’s “Love Affair with Overpasses”

The transportation record of a prominent presidential candidate is the jumping off point for a lengthy, critical report on American transportation policy in Politico last week. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker recently proposed to dramatically increase borrowing in order to support several highway megaprojects in southern Wisconsin. But the Politico article points out that the size of the budget is not the only, or even the most important, issue—both in Wisconsin and in Washington.

How MPOs Are Handling TAP and SRTS (National Center for Safe Routes to School, 2013)

This white paper from the National Center for Safe Routes to School is based on in-depth interviews with a selection of MPO managers and state SRTS coordinators, conducted as they were setting up and launching their programs after the changes in the program with MAP-21.