State DOT officials discuss how to prioritize repair

Transportation for America and Taxpayers for Common Sense has released Repair Priorities 2019, a new report analyzing pavement conditions, state spending trends, and unmet repair needs nationwide. The report indicates that pavement conditions are getting worse, contributing to a growing gap nationally between current investments in repair and unmet needs. At the same time, some states continue to invest in expanding roads, further increasing that backlog. The authors also hosted a webinar to roll out the report. Speakers included staff from DOTs that are prioritizing repair with available funding despite the challenges. Those challenges often include significant political pressure to direct funds toward new capacity projects instead of repair projects that cause backups and inconvenience to drivers.

Study: Transit supporters in LA unlikely to use transit themselves

It may sound like an Onion headline, but a new study out of UCLA finds that while a majority of Los Angeles County voters may support transit expansion, they express little desire to ride transit themselves in the future. The study found that voters appear to want transit for reasons other than riding it. The results of the study may also provide guidance on how to develop messages for future transit funding measures.

Who pays for roads? Users, but only partly

Subsidies are common across transportation modes, but it’s useful to have the numbers. A recent report by the Tax Foundations, updated data on the portion of roads paid for by travelers and shippers—fuel tax, tolls, and other user fees—by state. The figures range from 12 percent in Alaska to 76 percent in Hawaii, based on fiscal 2014 figures. The report does not give a national figure, but a previous version estimated user fees cover just 50 percent of road costs.

High-speed rail pushes on without federal funding

Xpress West, the high-speed rail developer that had been seeking federal loans and private investors to support its plan to build a high-speed rail line from Southern California to Las Vegas, has formed a partnership with China Railway International USA to move the project forward. China Railway International will provide $100 million initially and officials say construction could begin in fall 2016. A proposed extension via the High Desert Corridor, linking Xpress West’s Victorville station with Palmdale, 60 miles to the west, will connect the Xpress West line to Las Vegas with the existing Metrolink commuter rail service, as well as the California High Speed Rail system.

FHWA: We are not a barrier to safer, slower, innovative road design

On August 20 the Federal Highway Administration posted a new page on its website. The title, Bicycle and Pedestrian Funding, Design, and Environmental Review: Addressing Common Misconceptions, belies the importance of the clarifications FHWA is trying to make. The page addresses more than bicycle and pedestrian matters. It points out that federal funding or rules do not prohibit good road design for all modes, even if it varies from the standards used for decades.

California transportation secretary advocates for life-cycle approach

California’s longstanding principle of relying on locally generated funds and suballocated state fuel taxes to improve the state highway system poses a principal-agent problem: Local funders have every incentive to fund expansions while leaving costly owner-operator responsibilities, including eventual reconstruction, to an increasingly cash-strapped state DOT. This month Transportation Secretary Brian Kelly published an op-ed urging a life-cycle approach that prioritizes system preservation.

UC/UCLA report: Changes needed to align transportation spending and policy goals

A new report outlines steps that federal, state, and local decision makers can take to bring California’s transportation spending in line with its environmental and energy goals. The paper came out of a one-day session that involved leaders from business, academic, and policy sectors, including high-level staff from the California DOT (Caltrans) and the California State Transportation Agency.