Invest in Local Transportation Priorities

NLC urges Congress to authorize a new, long-term federal surface transportation program that recognizes the central role of transportation to metropolitan and regional economies and includes local voices in planning and project selection.

    Local governments own and operate 78 percent of the nation's road miles, 43 percent of the nation's federal-aid highway miles, and 50 percent of the nation's bridge inventory. Local elected officials should have the authority to direct available transportation resources to projects serving their communities and regions.

    However, local governments and their metropolitan and regional planning organizations directly receive less than 15 percent of current federal transportation funding. The last major transportation bill, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), consolidated programs important to local governments, reduced funding available for locally owned highways and bridges by 30 percent, and eliminated almost all discretionary programs for transit.

    Congress can fix this imbalance. A new transportation bill should directly allocate greater funding to cities and metropolitan organizations and provide more flexibility to choose the best mix of transportation options to fit regional needs.

    Cities and towns are embracing innovation to create new opportunities for struggling commercial districts and neighborhoods in distress. Programs like the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP), and Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) financing are tools that enable innovation.

    A new transportation bill must be long-term. Crisis-driven legislation and short-term extensions create insurmountable obstacles for transportation and infrastructure projects. The next bill should authorize transportation programs and funding for at least six years to restore certainty and stability to the transportation planning process at the local and regional level.

    Finally, the next transportation bill should be built on a stable foundation. The Highway Trust Fund, which finances the majority of transportation programs, has been unable to maintain sufficient revenue to support the nation's transportation needs. It is time for Congress to find a long-term solution that may, among other means, include an increase in the federal gasoline tax.