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Rural Transportation Funding Summit brings lawmakers and transportation experts together
Release Date: 12-08-2008
Author: Kimberly Mercer
The University of Vermont Transportation Research Center convened an invitation-only Rural Transportation Funding Summit on December 8, 2008, at the Davis Center in Burlington, Vermont.
State public agency leaders and elected officials involved in managing transportation systems in rural states were invited to engage in this phase one discussion. The Summit addressed the finance options for rural states that must be considered in the national debate. Ninety-one million Americans live in rural or small-urban areas of our country. Our nation’s interconnected transportation network passes through and within many of these regions.
With fewer people to help pay the cost of maintaining the transportation infrastructure in these areas, the methods of raising revenue to keep these critical links in our nation’s transportation system functioning as a seamless network is a challenge. The national dialogue about new sources of revenue to replace the declining effectiveness of the gas tax has been focused on congestion pricing, tolling and public/private partnerships. None of these sources of revenue have much applicability in rural areas. The discussion around vehicle miles traveled (VMT) taxes raises interesting issues for rural areas--where distances are great--and concerns about the regressive impacts of such a tax are felt more strongly.
There were three main questions posed during the day:
- The transportation industry is a major economic sector, and keeping it vibrant is critical to our nation’s economy and our quality of life. This begs the question, what is the federal role in funding a system to meet the mobility needs of people and to enable the efficient movement of goods? As we increase fuel efficiency and reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled we have crippled the funding mechanism put in place to maintain and expand our transportation system.
- The next authorization bill will need to be a transitional bill to move us from our current funding system that relies primarily on the fuel tax to a new funding scheme. What are the key elements that must be included in this transition to ensure that the unique needs of rural states and their citizens are considered? The challenge for us is to define the era we are transitioning to and minimize the length and impact of getting there.
- The increasing cost of raw materials and energy, combined with a deteriorating infrastructure, outpaces the financial ability at all levels (federal, state and local) to fund the maintenance and repair of our transportation system. If we are not raising the revenue to meet the infrastructure needs, are we, in fact, disinvesting in our transportation infrastructure? If so, should we be strategic about it? Or, put more subtly, how do we make the priority trade-offs between maintenance, rehabilitation, expansion and doing nothing? What are the criteria for doing so? This begs the question, can we afford our current transportation system? And if not, what is the system we want to fund, support and create to meet the mobility needs of Americans and our economy?
Attendees were presented with panel discussions, slideshow presentations, and interactive electronic polling throughout the day.
The agenda included the following slideshow presentations:
- Federal Role in National Transportation Policy - Jennifer Kenyan, Snelling Center for Government
- Transportation Funding Options and their Impacts on Northern Communities - Kathy Ruffalo-Farnsworth, National Surface Transportation Infrastructure and Finance Commission
- Transporation Funding - Bob Bright, Executive Director, Fargo-Moorhead Metropolitan Council of Governments
- Program Reform and Funding - The Next Federal Authorization, Surface Transportation Funding Options Matrix - Keynote Speaker: Dr. Anthony Kane, Director of Engineering and Technical Services, AASHTO
- Transportation Funding and Innovation - Greg Nadeau, Deputy Commissioner, Maine Department of Transportation
- The Next Transportation Authorization: Context, State Actions, and Wish List - Jim Reed, Transportation Program Director, National Conference of State Legislatures
Or contact Karen Glitman, TRC Program Manager.