No Money at the End of the Road

Acronyms in government are legendary. How about SAFETEA-LU? Of course, that’s the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users. You knew that, right?

Federal funding of transportation programs, by any name, is at a crossroads. Gas taxes, the traditional funding source, are not enough to meet future needs.

Kathy Ruffalo, a consultant who also has experience on the government side of the equation, lists the following transportation challenges:

·         Steady increase in congestion rates

·         Continued loss of life on our highways (43,000 deaths each year)

·         More freight tonnage moving by truck and rail

·         Global competitors with aggressive transportation policies

If that wasn’t enough, two federal commissions were created to address the growing funding gap and its consequences. Their daunting names – National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission and National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission. Good luck with that.

Ruffalo says many federal officials “need convinced” about tolling and public-private partnerships. Bottom line, she adds, about the current legislation that expires on September 30, 2009. “Extensions will be painful; there is no money for extensions. Business as usual is not going to work and doing nothing is not an option.”