A Subcommittee on Highways and Transit hearing examined the implementation of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, with an emphasis on the perspectives of states and local entities and their experiences in carrying out policies set forth in the law.
The committee heard from representatives of the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), and the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM).
“By now, we have all seen the reports of last week’s fire and resulting collapse of a section of I-85 northeast of Atlanta,” said Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.). “This is a critically important piece of our Interstate System, carrying more than 400,000 cars per day. With that volume of traffic, it is amazing that there was no loss of life in this incident. I commend state and local officials for responding so quickly to the crisis. I also want to commend U.S. Department of Transportation for acting quickly to release emergency funds and provide assistance.
“We are here to examine the implementation of the FAST Act with our state and local partners,” Graves said. “The FAST Act is the first long-term surface transportation reauthorization bill in a decade and is an important foundation for building a 21st century infrastructure. As a five-year bill, it provides needed certainty and funding so our non-federal partners can make smart, long-term investments. The FAST Act is a forward looking law that puts an emphasis on projects of national significance, the movement of freight, streamlining project delivery, and innovative solutions to transportation challenges.
“State departments of transportation, transit systems, and local entities have the important task of delivering transportation projects to their communities,” Graves concluded. “As they carry out these projects, the witnesses have a firsthand view of how federal surface transportation policies are being implemented by the U.S. Department of Transportation. We look forward to building a 21st century infrastructure with our state and local partners, and welcome their input today.”
- J. Michael Patterson, executive director, Oklahoma Department of Transportation; on behalf of AASHTO.
- Gary Thomas, president and executive director, Dallas Area Rapid Transit; on behalf of the APTA.
- Kasim Reed, Mayor of Atlanta, on behalf of USCM.
“Moving forward we must develop a modern revenue model for funding our surface transportation investments,” said Patterson, who noted that the traditional motor fuel tax upon which the federal Highway Trust Fund depends need to evolve as transportation fuel and vehicle technologies create more fuel-efficient vehicles and gas-free options.
“Until that time it is imperative that the annual obligation authority in the FAST Act be honored, the structural cash-flow deficit in the Highway Trust Fund be resolved and the schedule of rescissions of contract authority be abolished,” he said.
Patterson also testified that new infrastructure funding proposals must include funding, not only financing or regulatory reform.
“The reality remains that most transportation projects cannot generate adequate revenue to service debt or to provide the return on investment required by private sector equity owners,” Patterson testified.
“As a mayor of a city in a region with an already substantial and ever-growing economic output and population, there are challenges before us that go beyond aging infrastructure,” Kasim said. “According to IHS Global Insight, our U.S. metro areas are estimated to grow by nearly 66.7 million people over the next 30 years. Growth in the Atlanta region is projected to be substantially higher, as our region’s population is estimated to grow from 5.8 million to more than 8.6 million (or 48.7 percent).
When we look to the future, with our success so important to our state and the nation, we must have all transportation options on the table so we can sustain our economic growth and do so cost effectively and efficiently,” Kasim said.