February 9, 2011
The federal government is critical to the success of GO TO 2040. It must decide how to allocate billions in taxpayer dollars annually across a variety of different programs, services, and projects. It also must set priorities and develop criteria for how funding should flow through to the state, regional, and local levels. The Federal Government section in the Context and Best Practices chapter of the GO TO 2040 plan describes how federal decisions affect plan implementation, followed by examples of how GO TO 2040's implementation can be supported by federal actions. There are also numerous recommendations directed at the federal government outlined in the Implementation Action Areas throughout GO TO 2040. In 2011, we would like to highlight the following recommendations.
Pursuing Coordinated Investments
Metropolitan regions drive the U.S. economy, and this should be reflected in federal policy and programs. An increasingly "regional approach" to investment decisions, which would both invest more in metropolitan areas as well as devolve more appropriate authority for funding decisions to the regional level, harnesses the economic power of regions. Comprehensive regional plans, like GO TO 2040, should guide federal investment decisions since it identifies regional priorities by linking transportation, land use, the natural environment, economic prosperity, housing, and human and community development. The federal government has demonstrated great promise in helping to implement plans like GO TO 2040 by creating a set of guiding livability principles and the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, a joint collaboration among the U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Housing and Urban Development, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The Regional Mobility section of the plan makes a number of recommendations to improve our transportation network. We will work with the congressional delegation and administration to actively promote and work towards creating a national vision and federal program outlined in the Freight recommendation in the plan.
Freight is a national, interstate commerce issue and the U.S. economy depends on the efficient movement of freight. The benefits of the freight system rarely are confined to a single jurisdictional boundary and often the negative impacts are felt locally. Freight movement requires an interconnected system throughout our nation. A method needs to be established to formulate a national freight plan that can guide regional and state efforts to improve the freight systems.
Create a vision for a federal role in transportation that includes a national freight policy with dedicated funding and corridors of national significance.
CMAP's Transportation Reauthorization Policy Goals
Leaders in Washington should give highest priority to the following overall policy objectives in crafting and implementing a new federal transportation bill.
- Provide transportation investments based on regional priorities using performance-driven criteria that lead to decisions that are transparent, outcome-based, and mode-agnostic.
- Evaluate and prioritize infrastructure investments in a comprehensive way that looks beyond transportation benefits to include land use, economy, environment, and other quality-of-life factors.
- Provide adequate federal investments in the nation's transportation systems.
- Reform the transportation funding system by placing a new emphasis on sustainable revenue sources.
- Establish a national transportation vision that includes the movement of goods and the development of a national high-speed rail network.
Based on the Transportation Reauthorization Policy Goals, work with the congressional delegation and the administration to adequately fund and pass a federal surface transportation authorization.
Innovation. The America Competes Act which invests in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and fosters innovative research and commercialization has been signed into law. Now, Congress must appropriate the adequate funding. Of significant regional interest is that the legislation authorizes the creation of a "regional innovation program" to "encourage and support the development of regional innovation strategies, including regional innovation clusters". A new competitive grant program would make awards available to regional cluster initiatives on a matching basis. CMAP supports funding appropriations for this important national effort.
Water Conservation. While the federal government has made recent significant investments in energy efficiency through large scale retrofit programs, the federal government can also help consumers achieve efficiencies in water consumption while deferring the need for infrastructure expansion. As with energy, retrofits with more efficient appliances and plumbing fixtures can result in significant savings in water use. The U.S. EPA's WaterSense label, which is modeled after the longstanding and successful Energy Star program, makes it easier for consumers to identify products and services that use less water while performing as well as or better than conventional models. CMAP supports Congressional action toward authorizing Water Sense, an important step which would raise the program's profile and provide more market certainty to companies that produce and sell these products.
Transit New Starts. The Federal New Starts program is a competitive grant process that funds transit system expansions. While expansions are vital for many parts of the U.S., older and more well-developed systems should have the option to use these funds for badly needed maintenance and modernization efforts. The current New Starts program creates a strong incentive to pursue expansions, when maintenance and modernization should be the region's top priority. The criteria for federal New Starts grants should be expanded to support reinvestment in existing infrastructure rather than solely new expansions. Further, FTA regulations concerning use of funds for engineering of transit projects are stricter than those governing highway projects, and should be changed to create a "level playing field."
Sustainable Local Food. With the purpose of increasing food access to underserved communities, the emerging national fresh food financing initiative seeks to provide funding for new and expanded supermarkets, farmer's market and other food retail outlets located in food deserts. A supportive resolution was introduced in the U.S. House of Representative in December 2009. Additionally in 2008 the USDA received funding for the creation of new and expanded local food programs including the Farmer's Market Promotion Program and Specialty Crop Block Grants. CMAP supports the development of Fresh Food Financing Initiatives aimed at addressing food deserts as well as federal policies that continue and strengthen the importance of local food production.