The Intermodal Transportation Institute (ITI) at the University of Denver recently hosted a major transportation policy forum that involved key industry leaders who discussed MAP-21 and its funding and policy issues. “The overall theme of the forum dealt with the stark contrasts between the relief that analysts felt with the passage of a surface transportation reauthorization bill – MAP-21 (that provided at least two years of stability) with the frustration that none of the long-term funding and policy problems have been sufficiently tackled,” said panelist Stephen D. Van Beek, PhD, ITI board member, ITI faculty member, and chief of policy and strategy for LeighFisher.
“For advocates of an intermodal or systems perspective, the frustrations included: (1) inadequate funding levels; (2) the absence of any funded program for national and regional priorities; (3) the House-Senate divisions that led to the omission of a rail title; and (4) the needs of freight transportation still did not have adequate priority. These concerns were balanced against: (1) consolidating and simplifying many federal surface transportation programs; (2) encouraging more public-private partnerships and increasing the authorization levels for the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) and two years of relative stability,” said Van Beek.
“The most chronic problem seen by the panel, however, was that beyond these immediate transportation concerns, the method of providing revenues largely through the current gasoline tax is outdated, as people are driving less and cars are becoming more fuel efficient. The panelists agreed on several components for a new, long-term surface transportation bill that included: (1) new funding sources; (2) greater priority for nationally significant projects, including projects for freight; and (3) a modally agnostic transportation policy that looks at improving transportation options for users rather than continuing to build modal silos. These policies would finally complete the intent of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) passed more than 20 years ago.”