Atlanta, Georgia – The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has unveiled the Bush Administration’s new plan to refocus, reform and renew the national approach to highway and transit systems in America. The plan involves “a clean and historic break with the past” to encourage the future vitality of the country’s transportation network.
“Without a doubt, our federal approach to transportation is broken,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters, who announced the plan. “And no amount of tweaking, adjusting or adding new layers on top will make things better. It is time for a new, a different and a better approach.”
Peters said the plan sets a course for reforming the nation’s transportation programs by outlining a renewed federal focus on maintaining and improving the interstate highway system, instead of diverting funds for wasteful pet projects, and for programs clearly not federal priority areas, such as restoring lighthouses. Another key focus of the plan is addressing urban congestion and giving greater flexibility to state and local leaders to invest in their most-needed transit and highway priorities. Local leaders will have greater freedom and significantly more resources to fund new subways, bus routes or highways as they choose, based on the needs of local commuters, instead of dictates from Washington, D.C.
As part of the focus on congestion, the plan would create a Metropolitan Innovation Fund that rewards cities willing to combine a mix of effective transit investments, dynamic pricing of highways and new traffic technologies.
The reform plan also calls for reducing over 102 federal transportation programs from over the last two decades, replacing them with eight comprehensive, intermodal programs that will help focus investments; a refocused and redoubled emphasis on safety, using a data- and technology-driven approach that gives states maximum flexibility to tackle challenges such as crashes involving drunk drivers, motorcycles, work zones and rural roads; and improving the current 13-year average it takes to design and build new highway and transit projects.
Peters emphasized that new revenue sources must be found to supplement the unpredictable and unsustainable gasoline tax to fund maintenance and pay for new projects. More direct pricing options are needed, such as tolling, and states must be able to take advantage of the over $400 billion available worldwide for infrastructure investments from the private sector. “The idea is simple,” she said. “Use federal funds to encourage new sources of investments for transportation, instead of replacing them.”
The plan lays out the Administration’s framework for completely overhauling the way U.S. transportation decisions and investments are made, and is intended to spur local, state and federal debate about how best to incorporate the new reforms into surface transportation legislation slated to be considered by Congress in 2009.