As July wraps up and political issues continues to simmer, states are striving to meet their infrastructure needs in light of transportation budget woes and limited federal funds.
In Wisconsin, residents and lawmakers recognize the dire need for road improvements but wrestle with a $1 billion transportation budget shortfall. Recent flood damage to roads and other public infrastructure are resulting in debris removal and emergency protective measures that will cost the state more than $35 million. Legislators are considering raising the state’s gas tax or creating a toll road system to help generate funding.
Wisconsin is not unique in its transportation funding struggles. IND recently published an article, “How other states are slaying their transportation budget dragons,” showcasing how states like Virginia and Tennessee are working to raise money for their infrastructure needs.
Virginia is taking an alternative approach to leveraging funding by making city and regional agencies prove the utility of their projects through a process similar to grant application. The Commonwealth Transportation Board reviews projects from around Virginia and scores them according to how well they “ease congestion, improve economic development, provide accessibility to jobs, improve safety and environmental quality, and support transportation-efficient land use.” This process encourages jurisdictions to reevaluate and prioritize their transportation problems and develop solutions in order to be granted funding.
Tennessee has gotten creative by swapping road extension and expansion projects for cheaper alternatives that accomplish the same goals. They have successfully reduced transportation costs through their Expedited Delivery Process, which has directly contributed $171 million of the total $942 million in transportation cost reductions since 2014.
States are also taking steps to improve their freight and rail infrastructure. Iowa created its first freight plan that will be used as a guideline to improve efficiency, lessen transportation congestion and reduce the industry’s impact on the public and environment. Kansas is working on shaping a statewide freight and rail plan that will specify long-term investment strategies and a program of improvements to keep driving progress.
While these multi-state actions are positive steps forward, much work is still needed at the federal level to truly improve infrastructure. Fortunately, each presidential candidate agrees that infrastructure is important even though their two parties differ on how to approach the issue. In the meantime, with Congress in recess, now is a good time to encourage your legislators back home to invest in our infrastructure because the investment could save you and your family $3,400 a year.