Federal Transportation Reform

Policy Reports

No. 368
Wednesday, July 01, 2015
by Baruch Feigenbaum

Executive Summary

Grant user-friendly tolling flexibility for highways. Expanding the Interstate System Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Pilot Program to include all interstate highways in all 50 states would help cover most of the unfunded $1 trillion of interstate reconstruction costs.

Count all high occupancy toll lanes as fixed guideway miles. A zero-added cost to taxpayers that improves infrastructure spending efficiency and encourages increased infrastructure development.

Eliminate Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants. The cessation of TIGER grants could save taxpayers up to $6.5 billion over the next 10 years.

Analyze the ability of Metropolitan Planning Organizations’ (MPOs) long-range transportation plans to reduce congestion. Traffic congestion in America’s 101 urbanized areas costs motorists $121 billion per year in wasted time and fuel.

Eliminate federal aid funded by gas taxes for all nonhighway uses. Taxpayers could save $16 billion per year by eliminating funds diverted to nonhighway projects.

Amend the Clean Air Act of 1990 in two ways. Assuming the analysis local governments perform to show they conform to Clean Air Act requirments costs $20,000 per certification, this change would save nearly $8 million that could be better spent on effective transportation planning.

Simplify Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations regarding transportation planning. Removing wasteful and inefficient transportation planning could save taxpayers about $500 million a year.

These recommendations would bring federal requirements in line with the declining federal role in local transportation issues. It is critical that the federal government eliminate wasteful programs and provide states tools to stretch limited resources further. Instead of passing a major tax increase or making haphazard cuts, policymakers should implement these recommendations to preserve the users-pay/users-benefit principle and encourage state innovation.                  

U.S. government policy is based on the principle of federalism, under which the federal and state governments share legislative responsibilities. In transportation, the federal government funds the interstate movement of passengers and goods with federal aid highways, aviation, inland waterways and ports. Traditionally, other transportation modes have been funded by state and local governments.

Over the last 30 years, an increasing percentage of federal highway funds have been diverted to transit, bicycling, walking, smart growth, transportation museums, weed removal and other nonfederal transportation purposes. While these programs have value, they also reduce the funding available for federal aid to highways, jeopardizing interstate commerce. Eliminating federal funding for all nonhighway uses will return the federal highway program to users-pay/users-benefit system that spends limited resources on the most critical infrastructure.

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