Eleven national associations come together to unveil local priorities for TEA-21 reauthorization

Jim Fahey
Director of Government Relations
APWA Washington Office

When it comes to deciding what the successor to the six-year, $218-billion surface transportation law, TEA-21, will look like, local governments have much at stake. The reason, of course, is that local governments own, manage, maintain, and operate a large share of the nation’s vast surface transportation system. City and county governments, for instance, own about 75 percent of the 3.9 million miles of roads in the nation and nearly 300,000 bridges, more than half of all bridges in the United States. In addition, local governments manage about 90 percent of transit systems nationwide.

Those are pretty significant numbers, and with TEA-21 due to expire later this year, 11 organizations representing local governments have come together to advocate a transportation platform to empower local officials in the planning and programming of federal transportation dollars in the next law. The Local Officials for Transportation (LOT), a new coalition which includes APWA and other national associations representing local governments, has a series of recommendations aimed at achieving this platform. The coalition is calling on Congress and the Administration to follow its recommendations as the TEA-21 rewrite gets underway.

A top priority for the coalition is increased investment to address congestion and improve safety. LOT’s recommendations also seek to protect and enhance TEA-21’s strong gains. The coalition is urging Congress to retain TEA-21’s funding guarantees and to increase local official involvement in project-planning and funding decisions by suballocating resources to the regional level.

The LOT coalition released its TEA-21 reauthorization recommendations at a news conference in Washington, D.C. in February. Tarrant County Commissioner Glen Whitley of the National Association of Counties (NACo), Fort Worth Mayor Kenneth L. Barr of the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) and Dallas Councilmember Sandy Greyson of the National League of Cities (NLC) represented the coalition, and representatives from each of the member organizations joined them.

LOT’s reauthorization recommendations reflect those contained in APWA’s TEA-21 reauthorization policy statement, which was adopted early last year. Following are the LOT recommendations:

Funding Levels
Increase federal highway and transit investments. Options should include the equitable treatment of ethanol-based fuel and the reinvestment of accrued interest generated by the Federal Highway Trust Fund.

Funding Guarantees/Firewalls
Protect the current guaranteed funding mechanism for the highway and transit program and make necessary reforms to ensure revenue stability to the program.

Streamline Project Delivery
Implement reforms that will result in more timely and efficient delivery of projects including concurrent environmental review by local, state and federal agencies while protecting the environment and citizen participation.

Equity, Balance and Suballocation
Dedicate an equitable share of federal transportation resources for local governments to meet the increasing transportation needs of their communities.

Recognize the importance of local government in protecting its citizens and the nation’s surface transportation infrastructure. Congress should establish a new direct funding source to local governments in order to carry out these responsibilities.

Encourage the development of a seamless transportation system by connecting all modal elements to ensure the efficient movement of people and goods.

Urban Congestion
Develop new approaches to help localities combat increasing urban congestion, which causes an annual delay equivalent to one week’s time and costs society more than $78 billion each year.

Rural Road Safety
Develop new approaches that direct $1 billion each year to safety improvements on America’s rural two-lane highways, where approximately 25,000 fatalities occur each year.

Air Quality
Increase funding for the Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) program to assist the large number of expected new non-attainment areas.

Planning and Programming

  • Promote greater cooperation between states, Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO) and local governments in fiscal review, planning priorities and project selection;
  • Suballocate Surface Transportation Program (STP) funds to all MPOs (including those at least 50,000 in population);
  • Suballocate CMAQ funds to all MPOs and local governments in air quality non-attainment and maintenance areas;
  • Increase Metropolitan Planning (PL) funds to support the growing number of urbanized areas and added planning responsibilities; and
  • Ensure rural local elected officials have a clearly defined and prominent role in the transportation planning process by providing for cooperation with state transportation officials.
Transit Program
Substantially increase funding for public transportation to continue to develop and maintain a balanced transportation system in the United States that provides a variety of transportation options to our citizens. Congress should retain the current level of federal commitment to transit projects by maintaining existing federal-local matching requirements.

Highway Bridge Rehabilitation and Replacement Program
Increase investment in the federal bridge program to address the issue of the substantial backlog of deficient bridges. Greater targeting of theses funds to bridges owned by local government should be required in order to address the problems of substandard bridges.

Research and Technology Programs
Increase funding for all existing research and technology programs that directly benefit local government to expedite the deployment of new technology.

In addition to APWA, members of the LOT coalition include the National Association of Counties, the National League of Cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of County Engineers, the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations, the National Association of Regional Councils, the National Association of Development Organizations, the International City/County Management Association, the National Association of City Transportation Officials, and Public Technology, Inc.

A copy of the LOT brochure, Local Officials for Transportation: TEA-21 Reauthorization Principles, is available on APWA’s website, www.apwa/govtaffairs.net.

Jim Fahey can be reached at (202) 408-9541 or by e-mail at jfahey@apwa.net.