ARTBA: America needs new transportation vision

Policymakers at all levels of government need to develop and embrace a new approach to transportation planning if the United States is to remain globally competitive, the head of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association told a Texas transportation conference Aug. 10.

“The cost of improving and modernizing America’s transportation systems will be significant, but the cost of doing nothing for future U.S. economic growth, traffic congestion, air pollution levels and highway safety are far greater,” said Pete Ruane, ARTBA president and chief executive.

The new six-year highway and transit funding program, called the Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act – a Legacy for Users, signed into law Aug. 10 is a step in the right direction, but will not come close to meeting the nation’s needs identified repeatedly in government reports, Ruane said.

Traffic congestion levels will increasingly threaten business productivity and just-in-time delivery. A reduction in highway fatalities is unlikely under the new law, according to ARTBA.

Adjusted for inflation, SAFETEA-LU’s average annual funding gains are only 1.8 percent, compared to increases of 6 percent annually in TEA-21, the law it replaced.

With the U.S. population projected to increase 45 percent to more than 415 million in the next 50 years and the number of licensed drivers to grow another 86 percent to more than 380 million, there are a number of things policy makers should be considering to meet the nation’s transportation challenges, Ruane said.

“No. 1 is significantly increasing highway and public transit capital investment,” he said. “All revenue-raising options should be on the table.”

The goal for policymakers, beginning with scheduled 2009 reauthorization of SAFETEA-LU, should be a major rebuilding and modernization of existing infrastructure that adds significant capacity across all modes of transportation, he continued.

Ruane suggested the U.S. Department of Transportation issue a “report card” in 2006, assessing whether it has met its mission as defined in the 1966 law creating the agency. The department should also evaluate its role in shaping future transportation policy, he said.