- - Wednesday, July 23, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

It is no secret that many of our interstates, highways, and bridges are in dire need of repair. This impacts everyone—from the school bus driver taking children to school, families traveling out of state for vacations, and truck drivers transporting consumer goods. Not only does this impact our daily lives, but it also threatens our safety in emergency situations.

As commuters and consumers, we use our nation’s roads to get from point A to point B, without considering annual wear and tear. In 2010, highways carried more than 2.9 trillion vehicle miles and public transportation carried nearly 32 billion passenger miles. Sometimes we forget that our highway system was built in the 1950s by President Eisenhower. While this system made us competitive as a nation, we must commit ourselves to maintaining it or our competitive edge will literally crumble beneath us.

Currently, road maintenance and highway construction projects are funded by a highway bill Congress passed in 2012, MAP-21. This bill is set to expire in September; therefore, we must act soon so current road projects continue and planned projects move forward. The next highway bill needs to be fiscally responsible and build on the reforms made in MAP-21. Congress must further reduce the mounting regulatory burdens and give our federal partners the assurance and flexibility they need in order to fund and approve their projects.

MAP-21 did a great job with its programmatic and policy reforms last time around. It consolidated or eliminated nearly 70 U.S. Department of Transportation programs, which afforded state and local partners greater flexibility with the use of their federal funding. Furthermore, MAP-21 introduced great standards and emphasized performance management by incorporating performance measures into the highway, transit, and highway safety programs.

These changes, I believe, will continue to focus our federal funding on national transportation goals, increase accountability and transparency, and improve transportation planning and project selection. These new metrics should be further evaluated to see if their goals are being met. My colleagues and I on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure have evaluated the benefits some of these reforms have had on our states.

In South Carolina, the performance and asset management emphasis in MAP-21 has provided the South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) with the vehicle needed to pursue initiatives within the agency. SCDOT is one of ten States undertaking a Transportation Asset Management Gap Analysis as part of a Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) project. This two-step analysis looks to identify department strengths and areas for improvement by conducting an online Gap Analysis survey and in-depth interviews with internal stakeholders. The results will then be used to structure an agenda for asset management planning. SCDOT has completed the analysis and is currently awaiting results.

As we continue to work on a long-term highway bill, we ought to continue to examine projects like the Transportation Asset Management Gap Analysis and MAP-21’s metrics. Should these projects prove successful, we must expand on them in the next highway bill.

Lastly, the House of Representatives should look at the recent Transportation Infrastructure Financing and Innovation Act (TIFIA) expansion. MAP-21 really put this program into the growth lane by increasing its funding from $122 million annually to $750 million in FY2013 and $1 billion in FY2014. This will provide credit assistance for surface transportation projects and significant leveraging of limited resources. I believe that these types of programs are the wave of the future.

Our highway and interstate system will always be a key component to our country’s competitiveness and essential in our everyday lives. Congress recognizes this, the President recognizes this, and Americans recognize this. It is my hope that we can come together this fall and enact long-term reforms to repair our current system and fund innovative projects that will last us for years to come.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

blog comments powered by Disqus

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide