The last federal transportation bill, the Fixing Americas Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2016, will expire in September of 2020. It brought cities year over year increases in federal transportation block grant funding, and now, a brand new transportation bill must be stitched together by Congress. Cities need this new legislation to set the course for the next several years. In many ways, this reauthorization process is very similar to a new year’s resolution – it’s a new opportunity to reevaluate the direction of our transportation choices and set a path of clear actions for how we make our lives – and commutes – just a bit better.
At the end of 2019, NLC’s Transportation and Infrastructure Services Committee came together to set six resolutions for 2020, including one specifically on Cities Transportation Priorities for Reauthorization. Alongside the NLC National Municipal Policy, these resolutions will guide us in the new year as cities collaborate with Congress on the next transportation bill. We have already seen the first steps of the process, but we should see significant efforts by Congress in the first quarter of 2020, which is why we’re glad to set a clear trajectory in our resolution for the year.
For the upcoming transportation bill, communities are calling on Congress to include and address the following eleven priorities:
- Leverage partnerships with local governments, who are closest to both transportation problems and residents, in decision making on all transportation programs that impact communities.
- Support regional transportation models and planning to increase the effectiveness of the nation’s multimodal and integrated transportation investments.
- Increase the overall funding directly available to local governments, through programs like the Surface Transportation Block Grants (STBG) and Transportation Alternatives.
- Expand and implement new revenue mechanisms that are developed collaboratively with local governments, reflect the true cost of every mode of transportation, and can grow with the county’s transportation demands.
- Increase investment in both traditional and emerging transportation, including regional and intercity rail connections, micromobility options, safe biking and walking infrastructure, autonomous vehicles and modern buses.
- Move toward a performance-based transportation structure, in which the goals of the programs align with the region’s goals for economic development, sustainability, safety, innovation, equity, and regional connectivity.
- Sustain the highway, rail, air, and port freight systems with trade partners, in order to better connect urban and rural communities to each other and to the global economy.
- Recognize the essential connections between transportation and people’s lives – land use planning, housing, energy, the economy, public health and the environment.
- Support affordable public transportation systems of all sizes and ensure that factors like wages can keep up with costs of providing transportation services.
- Advance the work of Vision Zero cities to improve safety for all users and across all modes of transportation through new investment with cities and regions.
- Increase the transparency of the federal regulatory processes for both localities and the general public by streamlining duplicative federal processes.
As we head into a busy Congressional year, NLC looks forward to bringing local voices into the important conversations on Capitol Hill. We know there’s a lot of transportation work on your doorstep that needs to get done, so let’s work with Congress in 2020 to ensure city priorities make the cut!
If you are a city leader who wants to become more involved in our national transportation work, email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be in touch!
About the Author: Brittney Kohler is the program director for transportation and infrastructure at the National League of Cities.