The American Association of State Highway and
And Smart Growth
Committee on Environment and Public Works
United States Senate
AASHTO Recommends that Congress Consider the following:
· Provide funding to support the development and implementation of a training and capacity-building program to strengthen the ability of state and local transportation agencies to effectively address freight transportation issues.
· Provide funding for the FHWA research program to support freight transportation research that includes the private sector, and allows the pooling of U.S. DOT modal agency funds.
· Establish and fund a Freight Transportation Cooperative Research Program.
· Strengthen the transportation data programs and link them to national, state and local planning for freight transportation.
· Authorize a Freight Advisory Council that will communicate to U.S. DOT, State DOTs, and others the industry’s needs and issues.
· Calculate financial constraint based on total dollars in the program compared to total revenue available, including both federal and state funds.
· Allow flexibility in the documentation requirements used by states to demonstrate financial constraint.
· Revise financial planning and financial constraint requirements for mega-projects to get away from the “one size fits all approach” that impacts all projects over a certain cost level.
· Permit the states and implementing agencies to cooperatively develop definitions of “anticipated full funding” and “reasonably available.”
· Permit projects for which discretionary funding is being sought to be included in financially constrained TIPs.
· Permit a ten-year fiscal constraint time horizon for purposes of the metropolitan long range transportation plan.
· Direct U.S. DOT to eliminate the MIS requirements effective immediately and not make elimination of the MIS contingent on the issuance of new regulations.
· Authorize State DOTs and MPOs to develop optional procedures (with public transit operators, as appropriate) through which decisions reached in the Statewide and metropolitan planning process regarding purpose-and-need and range of alternatives would be binding in the NEPA process.
· Continue to provide flexibility to States as to the content of Statewide Long Range Transportation Plans, performance measures and planning horizons so long as a minimum 20-year horizon is maintained.
· Change the update cycle for Long Range Metropolitan Transportation Plans from three years to five years.
· Continue to defer to local and state governments on whether and how to consider land use in the course of transportation planning.
· Continue the existing balance of decision-making authority between the MPO, the state and local officials.
· Maintain the current balance of responsibility for the development of highway transit and intermodal projects, and reaffirm the leadership role and authority of the states.
· Retain the current definitions of planning “consultation, cooperation and coordination.”
· Retain the existing program structure rather than authorizing new set-asides or program categories.
Mr. Chairman, my name is Ken Leonard. I am the Director of the Bureau of Planning at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. I am speaking today on behalf of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) in my role as vice chairman of the AASHTO Standing Committee on Planning.
to thank you on behalf of the state transportation officials
across the country for inviting AASHTO to participate in this hearing to discuss
the very important issues of transportation planning and
Federal law has long established that the Federal-aid highway program is a “federally assisted state program”. The program has evolved through the years and, in addition to providing roles for federal and state officials, provides roles for local governments and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs).
The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) was important as the first piece of transportation legislation in the post-Interstate era. ISTEA set in motion a positive effort toward implementation of a responsive transportation program designed to meet a diversity of national transportation needs.
ISTEA placed a strong emphasis on the transportation planning process, including much more emphasis on public involvement. In addition, ISTEA included 23 planning factors for use in Statewide planning, and 16 planning factors for use in Metropolitan Planning. While much of this type of analysis and public involvement was already being done by many State DOTs, ISTEA placed stronger emphasis on these matters.
The successor to ISTEA, the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) consolidated the planning factors into seven, including:
· Support the economic vitality of the nation, the States and MPOs.
· Increase the safety and security of the transportation system for motorized and non-motorized users.
· Increase the accessibility and mobility options for people and freight.
· Protect and enhance the environment, promote energy conservation and quality of life.
· Enhance the integration and connectivity of the transportation system, across and between modes throughout the State for people and freight.
· Promote efficient system management and operation; and
· Emphasize the preservation of the existing transportation system.
TEA-21 also included a provision that failure to
consider any one of the planning factors is not actionable in a court of law.recognizes
As a whole the
planning provisions contained this legislation have worked well for all those
involved. Several of these provisions
were changed very little change in TEA-21.
U.S. DOT did propose some major changes to the planning regulations that
went far beyond the statutory requirements. However, those regulations are on
hold and it appears the U.S. DOT has rethought many of those earlier proposals.
TEA-21 added some additional groups to the public
involvement aspects of the planning process and, while the requirement for a
Major Investment Study was eliminated with the provision to be reflected in
U.S. DOT rulemaking.
Current Transportation Planning Practices and Innovative Approaches
The current framework for statewide and metropolitan transportation planning was established in TEA-21 and its predecessor ISTEA. In the past decade, we have seen significant changes in the transportation planning process. We have strengthened the stakeholder and public involvement, and established multi-modal planning processes that take into account a broad array of factors, including community input and goals, economic development, improved access to transportation facilities and services for all, and environmental quality and protection.
In addition, there has been a renewed focus on attainment of the federal clean air standards, and with that we have incorporated transportation conformity requirements into the planning process. The objective of transportation conformity is to better harmonize transportation and air quality planning and to ensure that transportation investments do not thwart clean air goals.
While the planning processes within the
states and metropolitan areas are generally sound and should
be retained, improvements can be made
to improve the efficiency and responsiveness. We should build on the planning processes to
provide for comprehensive, multi-modal planning at both the state DOTs and the
MPOs. Even so, we need to ensure that
new requirements are not added that will encumber the processes that have
evolved over the past decade. In
addition, the U.S. DOT should continue its training, technical
assistance, capacity building and information sharing efforts.
Both ISTEA and TEA-21
emphasize increased movement
of freight in their planning factors. States
have been including the freight system in their statewide multimodal
transportation plans as required by ISTEA. As part of this effort, Wisconsin, and a number of other states,
include a freight advisory committee as part of their planning process that
engages both freight transportation providers and shippers.
Recognizing the increased importance of freight transportation, AASHTO has created a new committee to focus on freight, the Special Committee on Intermodal Transportation and Economic Expansion.
AASHTO has also been putting increased emphasis on freight planning in its tools development and capacity building for states and MPOs. Currently we are funding a research project on “Best practices in Statewide Freight Planning” which will examine planning in states where efforts have been made to better understand goods movement. The lessons learned in this project will then be passed on to other states and MPOs. We will also be conducting a workshop this year on the need for better intermodal freight connections. The objective of this workshop will be to improve the awareness within states and MPOs of intermodal freight needs.
In addition, AASHTO is sponsoring an increasing amount of freight research through the National Cooperative Highway Research Program administered by the Transportation Research Board (TRB). I am personally chairing a research project for $500,000 to develop “Methods for Forecasting Statewide Freight Movements and Related Performance Measures”. The results of this research should improve our ability to predict future freight movements so we can plan and construct facilities accordingly. Another research project is entitled “Freight Movement by Rail – Impacts and Opportunities”. This project will examine the relationships between rail and other freight modes to identify opportunities for rail as part of an optimum mix.
To facilitate freight consideration in the planning process, AASHTO recommends the following actions:
· $10 million annually should be provided to support an initiative through which the U.S. DOT and the state DOTs will jointly develop and implement a training and capacity-building program to strengthen the ability of state and local transportation agencies to effectively address freight transportation issues.
· Congress should increase funding for the FHWA research program to support freight transportation research that includes the private sector, and allows the pooling of U.S. DOT modal agency funds. A Freight Transportation Cooperative Research Program should be created and funded in the range of $5 million to $7.5 million annually. The transportation data programs should be strengthened and linked effectively to national, state and local planning for freight transportation.
AASHTO’s recommendations to Congress also include support for authorizing a Freight Advisory Council that would communicate to U.S. DOT, State DOTs and others with one voice the industry’s needs and issues.
ISTEA included a provision for a financially
constrained Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) and State Transportation
Improvement Program (STIP). Subsequent
requirement mean s fiscal constraint by type of fund
and year, with no over-programming. The financial constraint provision was introduced
because some of the MPOs and transit agencies expressed concern that the level
of over-programming by the State DOTs made it difficult for the MPOs to know
which projects would go forward. The
issue that Congress was seeking to address was the local government push for
more authority as to how federal transportation dollars are spent, and more
accountability by the State DOTs on where the funds were being used.
TEA-21 continued requirements for financial constraint for State Transportation Improvement Programs (STIPS) and urban Transportation Improvement Programs (TIPS). The intent of these requirements was to match project commitments to overall resources at the planning
From the State DOT perspective, the financial
constraint requirement makes it difficult for States to make adjustments needed
as to which project can move forward
based on obligation
ceilings and other factors.
States need flexibility in managing their programs to be able to make
adjustments should a project become delayed.
The financial constraint provision makes it difficult to move forward
another ready project for funding should a project in the STIP be delayed for
The TEA-21 reauthorization legislation needs to
provide sufficient flexibility in financial constraint
timing to allow States to deal with unexpected delays in project development
and in working with their State legislature to obtain adequate funding. State DOTs and MPOs need flexibility and
discretion in the development of their STIPs and TIPs to program at a level
that enable s them to deal with cash
flow s and uncertainties in project
schedules, and fluctuating funding levels.
Interpretation of fiscal constraint requirements
varies among FHWA offices across the country, forcing some State DOTs and MPOs
to comply with different standards for demonstrating financial constraint.
air quality and other environmental laws are paired with financial constraint
requirements, it creates a bureaucratic maze that delays needed projects and
prevents states from concluding the NEPA process on large, multi-phase projects
whose costs are spread over a long time period.
AASHTO believes that the TEA-21 reauthorization legislation should increase flexibility related to financial constraint in State and Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Programs. AASHTO recommends legislative changes that:
1. Calculate financial constraint based on total dollars in the program compared to total revenue available, including both federal and state funds.
2. Allow flexibility in the documentation requirements used by states to demonstrate financial constraint.
3. Revise financial planning and financial constraint requirements for mega-projects to get away from the “one size fits all approach” that impacts all projects over a certain cost level.
4. Permit the states and implementing agencies to cooperatively develop definitions of “anticipated full funding” and “reasonably available”.
5. Permit projects for which discretionary funding is being sought to be included in financially constrained TIPs.
6. Permit a ten-year fiscal constraint time horizon for purposes of the metropolitan long range transportation plan.
In October, 1993, FHWA issued revised regulations implementing the planning provisions of ISTEA. These revised regulations included a new concept – the major investment study or MIS, which was not specifically required in ISTEA itself.
The regulations required an MIS for any “major metropolitan transportation investment” where “Federal funds are potentially involved”. The regulations defined a major investment as a “high-type highway or transit improvement of substantial cost that is expected to have a significant effect on capacity, traffic flow, level of service, or mode share at the transportation corridor or subarea level”.
Two options were allowed for preparing an MIS. Under “Option 1 “, the MIS was prepared as a stand-alone study prior to the NEPA process. Under “Option 2”, the MIS was combined with the EIS into a single document.
In practice, experience with the MIS was mixed. On
the one hand, many MPOs, transit operators and some State DOTs found the MIS
useful. On the other hand the
two options for the MIS also raised significant concerns:
· Option 1 MIS (prepare MIS, then EIS): When Option 1 was used, the “decisions” made in the MIS process were often discarded when the NEPA process began. In effect, it became necessary to start over again in the NEPA process, which caused the MIS process to lose credibility among agencies and the public.
· Option 2 MIS (prepare MIS and EIS together): While the Option 2 MIS avoided the problems with Option 1, it also provided less flexibility. The Option 2 MIS was, in fact, an expanded EIS; it did not provide a vehicle for conducting a corridor-level planning study before making a commitment to prepare a full EIS for a specific project.
In reaction to the experience with the MIS, Congress enacted Section 1308 of TEA-21 which directed U.S. DOT to “eliminate the major investment study … as a separate requirement and promulgate regulations to integrate such requirement, as appropriate, as part of the analysis required under the planning and NEPA processes for highway and transit projects.
Section 1308 also provided that “the scope of the applicability of such regulations shall be no broader than the scope of such section”.
In May, 2000, FHWA and FTA issued a notice of
proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for new statewide and metropolitan planning
regulations. Pursuant to Section 1308
of TEA-21, the proposed regulations would have eliminated the MIS as a
stand-alone requirement. However, the
proposed regulations also would have created a new requirement
with broader application.
In its comments on the NPRM, AASHTO strongly opposed the MIS integration provisions in the FHWA’s proposed planning regulations. AASHTO raised several objections, including:
proposal created a new requirement
the original MIS regulation, it directly violated
Section 1308 of TEA-21.
· The new requirement created a mandatory process, which had the potential to become extremely resource-intensive.
· The new process did nothing to ensure that decisions made in the planning stage would be accepted in the NEPA process.
AASHTO’s recommendation regarding the MIS issue when it is considered in the reauthorization of TEA-21 is that Congress direct U.S. DOT to eliminate the MIS requirement effective immediately, and not make elimination of the MIS contingent on the issuance of new regulations.
AASHTO also recommends that Congress authorize State
DOTs and MPOs to develop optional procedures (with public transit operators, as
appropriate) through which decisions reached in the Statewide and metropolitan
and range of alternatives would be binding in the NEPA process.
With regard to State Long Range Transportation Plans, Congress should continue to provide flexibility to States as to content of Long Range Plans, performance measures and planning horizons so long as a minimum 20-year horizon is maintained.
However, in a three-year update cycle, MPOs don’t have adequate time to improve their data collection and modeling processes. Further, the three year update cycle makes it difficult to involve the public since the planning agency is always in a continuous update cycle. If the update cycle was changed to five years, MPOs would be able to strengthen the planning process by improving the data and updating their modeling tools.
To overcome the problems listed above, AASHTO advocates that Congress change the update cycle for Long Range Metropolitan Transportation Plans from three years to five years.
TEA-21 requires consideration of projects and
strategies that will among other things “increase
accessibility and mobility options”
“enhance the integration of the transportation system.” These parallel considerations are often
included in land use planning activities.
TEA-21 correctly eliminated any specific reference to state-level
responsibility for land use planning in recognition that states only rarely
have authority to directly make land use decisions.
Land use has historically been considered to be
a local government function.
Most states, as a matter of state law or practice, defer most or all
land use decision making to local units of government. Land use reflects a number of local
circumstances, and local officials should have the responsibility to determine
land use for their particular area.
Trying to legislate one particular approach to land use – a “one size
fits all” approach – simply would not be workable from an interjurisdictional
Congress should ensure that federal statutes continue to defer to local and state governments on whether and how to consider land use in the course of transportation planning.
With regard to Smart Growth, Wisconsin has “Smart Growth” legislation, and has worked cooperatively with local units of government and developed a “Transportation Guide” for the local communities to use in developing their comprehensive plans. This stresses the importance of planning for land use and transportation together once the community has determined its vision.
AASHTO has several Smart Growth related activities underway, including:
· Sponsoring meetings and working with State DOTs, U.S. DOT and other organizations on Context Sensitive Design. AASHTO supports Context Sensitive Design, and attention to the way streets and highways are routed or redesigned through living areas to lessen any negative effects they may have on the livability of an area. AASHTO is developing a guide on context sensitive design, which is slated for publication later this year.
· Through a grant from FHWA and EPA, AASHTO is sponsoring a Smart Growth competition to highlight new and innovative Smart Growth initiatives being tried around the country.
· AASHTO has launched an Environmental Stewardship initiative to assist State DOTs in capacity building efforts to deliver needed transportation projects in a manner that preserves and enhances our environment.
Under this Environmental Stewardship initiative, AASHTO is working with FHWA, other federal agencies, and environmental organizations in the establishment of a Center for Environmental Excellence,
AASHTO is also sponsoring an Environmental Stewardship pilot program to again disseminate information about best practices in working with the environment.
Several State DOTs, such as New York, have incorporated environmental stewardship into all facets of their operations, whether planning and designing new facilities, or maintenance activities such as grass cutting.
Congress should continue the existing balance of decision-making authority between the MPO, the state and local officials. This would continue proven arrangements that have worked well for a decade and been agreed to by transportation officials and professionals nationwide.
In particular, the current relationships in rural areas should remain unchanged. Rural transportation planning already is fully encompassed by the statewide planning provisions of 23 USC section 135, which have been institutionalized nationally since ISTEA. Indeed, in most states a comparable rural/statewide transportation planning process was in place before ISTEA.
In Wisconsin, rural planning is a collaborative effort between the states, regional planning commissions and local government. This arrangement goes back to the 1960’s. These parties coordinate their planning activities utilizing advisory committees, intergovernmental committees, guidance documents, association meetings, public involvement, etc. In addition, Wisconsin has a Local Roads and Streets Council composed of all levels of government: counties, towns, villages, cities and state. This council develops and evaluates local road data and develops policy initiatives based on that data as well as evaluates policy and program options on funding. Other states have similar arrangements for their local planning depending on their unique institutional and statutory authority.
Have the planning partners been given the proper roles and mandate?
In recognizing statutorily that the federal-aid highway program is a “federally-assisted state program”, TEA-21 acknowledges two centuries of federalism. Implicit in this recognition is an appreciation of the central role that the states perform in the development of our surface transportation system, even as other jurisdictions and institutions – local government, MPOs, tribal governments and federal agencies – have come to play important parts. The nation is well-served by the current balance of responsibility for the development of highway, transit and intermodal projects, and AASHTO recommends that Congress maintain this balance and reaffirm the leadership role and authority of the states as TEA-21 is reauthorized.
Congress should continue TEA-21’s decision-making responsibilities, processes, and procedures for planning, programming and project selection. This means retaining the balance of decision making between states and MPOs, and state and rural officials; retaining the current definitions of planning “consultation, cooperation and coordination,” and meeting needs through the existing program structure, rather than through new set-asides.
Do planning organizations have adequate capacity, tools and resources to carry out their assigned role and responsibilities?
AASHTO is working closely with the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Transit Administration, the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations, and the National Association of Regional Councils to develop and deploy various capacity building tools to assist transportation planners. Several initiatives are included in this activity, including a web site where transportation planning assistance can be disseminated.
In addition, AASHTO has been working closely with the Transportation Research Board (TRB) to continue to improve planning tools. There are on-going projects related to safety, freight planning, rural planning, public involvement, economic benefits, and innovative financing. There are additional needs for techniques to deal with capacity needs to support the nations’ economy, accelerating the renewal of our highways, providing reliable travel times, and making improvements in highway safety. In fact, in these four areas, AASHTO is working cooperatively with FHWA to identify research needed to address these problems. These research proposals will be completed in time to be considered during reauthorization of TEA-21.
However, if there are increases in requirements through the federal legislative or regulatory process, it will be difficult to meet them through the planning process. Currently, planning and research for states and their localities is supported by 2 per cent of certain federal aid categories. If the overall federal program grows, planning funds should be sufficient. But if the program does not grow, there will not be enough planning funds to keep up with new challenges let alone any new requirements. For years, Wisconsin has shared its planning funds with the MPOs, regional planning commissions and local government. This is becoming much more difficult. In addition, research at the national level is critically under funded.
As I have indicated, the planning provisions of
ISTEA and TEA-21 have improved the transportation planning process and allowed
for greater public involvement in the process.
As Statewide and Metropolitan planning issues are considered in the reauthorization of TEA-21, it is important to recognize the differences among states and provide adequate flexibility. The reauthorization legislation needs to include flexibility that allows States and MPOs to adapt it to different parts of the country based on government structure, geography, population and a number of other important factors.
In addition to legislative changes, AASHTO is particularly concerned about any federal planning regulations that may come forward after the reauthorization legislation is passed. AASHTO strongly believes that such regulations should be consistent with Congressional intent.
Thank you for allowing me to present AASHTO’s perspective on these issues. AASHTO is available to work with you and your staff on these important issues that will be considered in the reauthorization of TEA-21. I would be happy to answer any questions here, or in writing.