As policymakers consider the next multiyear surface transportation reauthorization, CMAP offers the following reforms and policy recommendations.
Ensure sustainable, adequate revenue sources for multimodal transportation investments
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the inadequacy of transportation revenue sources. The federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF) has required non-transportation revenue infusions of $153.5 billion since 2008. A primary revenue source for the HTF, the federal motor fuel tax has not been raised since 1993 and remains at a rate of 18.3 cents per gallon on gasoline purchases and 24.3 cents per gallon on diesel purchases. Absent any new or increased revenue sources, the fund is expected to face cumulative revenue shortfalls of $189 billion by 2030.
As more commuters turn to driving over transit due to the pandemic, CMAP analysis indicates gridlock and longer travel times may cost northeastern Illinois $1.2 billion annually in productivity costs. Innovative approaches to funding the system are needed improve safety and mitigate congestion. Changes in travel behavior and increased vehicle fuel efficiency will require replacing the HTF’s motor fuel tax with a per-mile road usage charge in the long term. Looming reconstruction needs on the interstate and expressway system in northeastern Illinois will require substantial funds, but current federal law limits the ability to toll existing interstate capacity. New operational approaches that can limit congestion, such as managed lanes, also require the ability to price roadway use.
Increasing the federal motor fuel tax rate, indexing it with inflation rates, and replacing it with a per-mile road usage charge in the long term.
Continuing funding for per-mile-road-usage-charge pilot programs, expanding pilot program eligibility to MPOs, and developing a streamlined national solution that allows each state to collect road-usage charges from out-of-state drivers and long-distance commercial vehicles.
Offering greater flexibility for states and regions to impose user fees by removing federal restrictions on tolling the interstate system.
Removing restrictions on commercial activity on the Interstate system, e.g., the provision of power to electric vehicles and parking for commercial vehicles.
Strengthen the transit system
Even before the pandemic, the public transportation system in northeastern Illinois required billions in new funding just to reach a state of good repair. Federal funding reforms are needed to level the playing field between transit and highways for large expansion projects. For example, the New Starts grant program for transit infrastructure improvements requires a substantial local match and the completion of significant engineering work before officials start considering federal funding. In contrast, a large highway expansion project is subject to a lower local match and afforded more flexibility with using federal funds for engineering work. Transit, commuter rail, and intercity passenger rail play an important role in providing affordable transportation options, reducing emissions, and limiting congestion. To ensure a level playing field, federal agencies also should prioritize transit-oriented development through their transportation, housing, and economic development investments.
Increasing funding for transit from the Highway Trust Fund and other transportation system user fees.
Revising federal requirements to eliminate the funding disparity between transit projects and highway projects.
Aligning transportation, housing, and economic development programs to support equitable transit-oriented development
Providing more resources for maintaining and modernizing transit systems, transit-oriented development, increased transit capacity, and state-supported intercity passenger rail routes.
Reform funding to achieve national performance goals
Performance-based approaches ensure that limited resources are allocated based on the ability to address established goals and targets, rather than relying on historic percentages, arbitrarily derived formulas, or earmarking. CMAP remains committed to transparent, data-driven approaches to programming transportation funds. The highway program’s existing national goals — along with requirements for performance measurement data reporting by states and MPOs — have set the stage for funding reform. CMAP analysis shows that lower income people of color have longer-than-average commutes and are often traveling to jobs in places or at times with limited bus or rail service. The existing goals should be amended to prioritize people and their connections to jobs and services. Programmatic changes may be necessary to ensure transit projects are eligible for funding if they can best address the goal.
Applying performance-based funding principles across programs.
Amending the national highway goals in 23 U.S.C. § 150 to add a measure for how well the transportation system connects people to jobs and services.
Funding apportionments based on national goals through a mix of formulaic and discretionary programs while ensuring< a certain level of year-over-year continuity for each state or region to enable long-term planning.
Continuing discretionary programs, such as Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) and Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA), with reforms that increase transparency and address multimodal needs.
Provide a greater role for metropolitan planning organizations to program funds
Increasing the authority of MPOs that program federal resources allows a stronger connection between regional plans and investment decisions. Under federal law, MPOs already are required to measure and set targets for transportation safety as well as system condition and performance, but increased authority would allow them to better address those issues. CMAP and its partners have a track record of successfully distributing federal Surface Transportation Block Grant (STBG) dollars regionally through the Surface Transportation Program Shared Fund. Through this program, CMAP evaluates proposed projects based on regionally established performance criteria, including the degree to which they benefit low-income and minority populations.
Increasing the Surface Transportation Block Grant (STBG) suballocation to urban areas and stronger requirements for MPO involvement in the programming of these funds.
Expanding MPO programming authority for a portion of transit and Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) funds, reflecting new responsibilities for transit asset management and achieving new Federal Highway Administration Safety Performance Management goals.
Establishing a pilot program that gives project selection authority to large MPOs for a portion of various funding programs.
Reduce transportation emissions and adapt to climate change
As the greatest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, the transportation sector has many opportunities to contribute to reductions. Climate change already is causing stronger and more frequent weather events that create operational and safety problems throughout the transportation system. Reducing the share of trips made by single-occupancy vehicles and transitioning to electric vehicles would help lower emissions. Similarly, CMAP administers Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) funds for the Chicago region. A number of CMAQ projects require Buy America waivers, which have not been issued by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) since early 2018. These projects would replace older, less-efficient engines and vehicles with cleaner burning alternatives.
Funding for MPOs to measure, establish targets for, and set goals around greenhouse gas emissions reductions from the transportation sector.
Incentivizing non-single occupancy vehicle travel and improve services to provide these opportunities.
Increasing funding for electric vehicle charging infrastructure and replacing public vehicle fleets with electric or other low-emission propulsion systems.
Expanding eligibility and additional funding within the STBG program for projects that enable existing surface transportation assets to withstand weather events or natural disasters.
Issuing of Buy America waivers by FHWA for vehicle replacements and engine retrofits that substantially improve air quality.
Harness the benefits of emerging technologies to improve mobility and safety
The ways people travel are changing, enabled by new technology and mobility options like ride hailing and shared bikes, scooters, and cars. Transit systems can serve as the backbone for potential new mobility services, but regulations and funding may need to be adjusted to maximize benefits. Similarly, rapid developments in automated vehicle (AV) technology highlight the need for additional policy development at all levels of government. Federal leadership is needed to ensure safety and require that relevant data is collected and made available. Automated safety enforcement continues to be an effective tool in reducing traffic fatalities and should be used more widely in a way that ensures transparency, accountability, privacy, and equity.
Making space for innovation in emerging technology and mobility services — with transit as the backbone — through funding, regulations, and pilot programs.
Establishing processes to ensure transparent public access to AV safety data.
Convening stakeholders — including MPOs — to develop AV technology standards that enable local and regional jurisdictions to conduct long-range infrastructure planning.
Empowering local governments to enact AV policies consistent with land use and mobility goals.
Repealing funding prohibitions for automated traffic safety enforcement in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Section 402 funds and Highway Safety Improvement Program funds.
Improve freight programs while addressing community impacts
The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act established two highway and freight programs that have provided funds for nationally significant freight projects in northeastern Illinois, including the 75th Street Corridor Improvement Project. Program funding, however, is largely confined to highway, road, and bridge projects, even though freight movement is often multimodal. A dedicated funding source that has a user-fee nexus to the freight system would make these programs more sustainable. Released in September 2020, the National Strategic Freight Plan provided overarching goals and objectives for the national freight system, but lacked a comprehensive needs assessment. National freight policy would benefit from a comprehensive analysis of our system’s freight infrastructure investment needs and strategies to mitigate the negative impacts of freight on local communities.
Continuing and expanding formulaic and discretionary freight programs with reforms to eliminate caps on multimodal projects.
Implementing a federal fee on the cost of all shipments, regardless of mode, with revenues disbursed to states based on their freight needs.
Developing a comprehensive assessment of freight system needs with high quality data sets.
Making eligibility explicit for projects that mitigate the negative impacts of freight, such as reducing particulate pollution and reducing motorist delay at highway-rail grade crossings, even through grade separations if necessary.
Collecting nationwide, representative grade crossing blockage data by the Federal Railroad Administration from the railroad industry and other available sources.