For informational/historical purposes only.


TESTIMONY
of Gordon Proctor Director, Ohio Department of Transportation 

Regarding Ohio's Federal Transportation Funding Agenda

  Before the Transportation, Infrastructure and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee

 SEPTEMBER 30, 2002 


Mr. Chairman, members of the Environment and Public Works Subcommittee, I am Gordon Proctor, Director of the Ohio Department of Transportation. On behalf of Ohio Governor Bob Taft, I thank you for this opportunity to testify and we especially would like to acknowledge the assistance of Senator Voinovich in making this possible. His leadership on transportation has been greatly appreciated.

As you shape the next transportation act, I ask that you focus on the tremendous need to rebuild, reconstruct and rejuvenate the interstate highway system. This system will reach its 50th anniversary in 2006, mid-way through the next act. The interstate highway system has served us well and today plays a vital and irreplaceable role in our transportation system. At the same time, this system is aging, stressed and sorely in need of additional investment to ensure the safety, adequacy and competitiveness of our nations transportation system.


Highway Freight Density - Ohio is one of Americas freight-shipping centers. 
The wider the band, the heavier the freight movement

Let me put the interstate system in context for you. It represents only 1.2 percent of the public road miles in the United States but it carries 24 percent of our countrys traffic and an estimated 80 percent of all truck freight. Traffic volumes on the interstate system nationally have risen 41 percent in the past 10 years and truck volumes have grown by even more.

The advent of computerized inventory systems combined with the ease and access of the interstate highway system led to the creation of Just in Time Inventory. This strategy played a large role in dropping the nations cost of logistics from 16 percent of the Gross Domestic Product in 1978 to only 10 percent of the Gross Domestic Product today1. That means that a substantial portion of Americas rise in productivity in the past 20 years has been attributable to our Interstate Highway System. As Governor Taft has said, the interstates are the conveyor belt for Americas Just In Time economy.

Nationally, an estimated 14 billion tons of freight valued at $11 trillion moves in America each year2 . Of that 78 percent by tonnage moves by truck, 60 percent by miles traveled and 88 percent of the freight by value moves by truck. If Ohios trends are consistent with national trends, a large and disproportionate amount of those truck movements are occurring on the interstate highway system as opposed to local routes or non-interstate highways.


Ohio Truck Vehicle Miles Traveled, State Route System

The Federal Highway Administration and its researchers predict that freight volumes will grow steadily at about 3 percent annually for the next 20 years, leading to a near doubling of freight movement. Freight movement has become an increasing part of our economy because of Just In Time Inventory, the rise of exports and international trade as a larger part of our economy and as a result of steadily rising affluence. The rise in Gross Domestic Product and the rise in freight movement correlate almost on a one-to-one basis.

However, we are experiencing very troubling trends in Ohio and across the country. Ohio is a good microcosm because our interstate highway system is Americas fourth largest and we estimate it carries the third greatest value of truck freight in the country.

In the past 25 years we have experienced an 89 percent increase in truck volumes on our interstate highways. Routinely, every day in almost every major Ohio city, truck volumes on our major interstate highways approach 20,000 trucks a day. We estimate, truck volumes will grow approximately 60 percent over the next 20 years, and some estimate the growth will be even higher. This means that within 20 years, 30,000 trucks a day will be the norm on the interstates in Cincinnati, in Dayton, in Springfield, in Toledo, in Cleveland, in Akron, in Canton, in Youngstown and in Columbus.

The interstate highways play an invaluable role in moving our products. In Ohio, 74 percent of the $1.3 trillion in freight moving in Ohio moves by truck. Of that truck freight, 83 percent is carried on our intestate highways. These few miles of roads, only 7 percent of Ohios total state mileage, carry 83 percent of all truck freight or $800 billion worth of commodities annually.


Ohio Economic and Travel Indices -
Relative Growth, 1990 2000

These routes used to be our safest and our most reliable routes. Severe congestion, outdated interchanges, poor geometrics and tremendous volumes have turned nearly every urban interstate route in Ohio into a high-congestion, high-accident bottleneck.

I-75 in Toledo carries 19,000 trucks a day. It is 43 percent over capacity and it averages 100 accidents per year per mile. A 17-mile stretch of I-75 in Cincinnati carries 184,000 vehicles a day, including 14,000 trucks and it averages 80 accidents per year per mile. I-75 in Dayton carries 20,000 trucks per day and averages 80 accidents per year per mile.

The most congested location is the overlap of Interstate 70 and Interstate 71 in downtown Columbus, the figurative and literal crossroads of Ohio. In that juncture the interstates are 114 percent over capacity and average 274 accidents per mile per year. That equals more than one accident for every business day of the year. Within a 2.5 mile radius of the junction, the routes experienced 2,037 accidents over a three-year period.

In Ohio, 91 segments of our interstates are considered seriously congested. These sections comprise only 7 percent of the freeway lane miles in Ohio but because they are the most heavily used routes they create congestion for 12 percent of all peak hour travelers statewide. Those numbers mask the intensity of localized congestion on our interstates. In Columbus, 20 percent of all peak hour travel is severely congested, in Toledo 30 percent of all peak hour travel is severely congested and in Dayton 40 percent of all peak hour-travel on the interstate network is severely congested.

These congested locations also have become among our highest-accident locations in Ohio. Forty-three percent of all freeway accidents in Ohio occur on just 12 percent of the freeway system. In other words, these key bottlenecks are causing a vastly disproportionate percentage of crashes in Ohio.

The cost to fix these locations will be enormous. I-75 in Dayton provides just one example. We recently completed a conceptual analysis of alternatives to improve the unsafe and congested design on I-75 near downtown Dayton. The estimated cost to bring the corridor up to modern standards was $750 million. Such costs are so far beyond the resources we have that we had no choice but to reject even an attempt to bring all aspects of the highway up to standard. Instead, we are opting for a much reduced project which will make the highway adequate for an estimated $300 million. Three hundred million dollars equals an entire years new construction budget for the Ohio Department of Transportation. While that one project may be feasible, multiply that project times 10 and you have an idea of the magnitude of the types of repairs needed in Cincinnati, Toledo, Cleveland, Akron, Canton, Youngstown and Columbus.

These high-cost bottle neck projects will dominate our transportation planning and budgeting efforts for at least the next 20 years in Ohio. While in the 1950s and 1960s, transportation efforts were dominated by the construction of the interstate highway system, the first two decades of the 21st Century will be dominated by our efforts to reconstruct them.

Interstate Pavement Replacement

  • 37% of Interstate Pavements Will Have Been Replaced by 2005 

  • 7% of Interstate Pavements Require Replacement Between 2005-2008 

  • 56% of Interstate Pavements Need To Be Addressed After 2008

Even if we do not address the capacity and safety aspects of the interstate highway system, the unavoidable need to maintain only the pavements creates a very daunting financial challenge. Our interstate pavements in Ohio are approaching their 40th year and to date have incurred far more loadings than ever imagined when they were constructed. ODOT in recent years examined the original assumptions upon which the interstate pavements were constructed. The traffic volumes, the truck loadings and the long period before they were to be reconstructed were not anticipated in the original pavement designs. The average interstate highway pavement in Ohio has incurred six times the number vehicle loadings it was expected to have incurred by the time of the study in the late 1990s. The original assumptions were that the pavements would be replaced after 20 years. Very few of them were. Although they have been resurfaced, the original pavement is still in place along with the original subbase and drainage system.

When the interstate system reaches its 50th year in 2006, only 37 percent of the original interstate pavements in Ohio will have been replaced since their original construction. Over the next 20 years we face the daunting task of replacing 63 percent of the interstate system pavements which remain from the original construction.

These traffic volumes on the interstates, the high number of accidents and the level of congestion already are having an effect upon our country. The rate of improvement in logistical efficiency is leveling off. More importantly, our steady three-decades reduction in the number of accidents each year has stalled. In the past decade in Ohio the number of total accidents and the number of fatalities has remained unacceptably high at about 1,300 fatalities annually. This contrasts with steady reductions in fatalities from the 1960s to the mid-1990s. I believe this growing level of congestion and accidents is hampering us from achieving our goals for safety, mobility, access and logistical competitiveness.

What can Congress do about this? First, please do not dilute the core, basic highway funding formulas which are essential to maintaining the backbone of our system. Special set asides and narrowly focused programs may be popular with certain groups. However, full funding of the basic core highway programs will do the most to rebuild our interstates.


Shares of Ohio Freight Tonnage by Mode,
1998 and 2020

Second, as the interstates approach their 50th year, do not let them be treated as historical artifacts subject to preservation in their current outmoded state under the nations historic preservation statutes.

Third, please recognize that the nation needs to restore the capacity of these critical bottlenecks and do not allow any agencies to promulgate new rules to slow down or impede our progress in repairing these locations.

Finally, we support an idea suggested by Administrator Peters that a national study or national commission is needed to evaluate the future of our interstate highway system. This system is so important to our transportation network that its future must be secure.

Mr. Chairman, Senator Voinovich, members of the committee, thank you for this opportunity and I would be happy to answer any questions.


1 Cambridge Systematics, Freight Impacts on Ohios Roadway System, 2002, ES 4.

2 Reebie Research and FHWA Freight Analysis Framework Project.


 

TESTIMONY
of Gordon Proctor Director, Ohio Department of Transportation 
on Behalf of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials

Regarding Stakeholder Proposals for Reauthorization of the Surface Transportation Program

  Before the Subcommittee on Ground Transportation Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure United States House of Representatives

 SEPTEMBER 19, 2002


Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, my name is Gordon Proctor. I am the Director of the Ohio Department of Transportation and today I am testifying on behalf of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). AASHTO represents the departments of transportation from the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico as well as many other state, local and affiliate/associate members engaged in providing transportation services.

First, I want to thank you on behalf of the state transportation officials across the country for your leadership and efforts to ensure full and adequate funding for the final year of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Centurys (TEA 21) authorization. We believe that sustaining the current funding levels for highways and transit is an essential contribution to any efforts to work our way out of todays economic malaise.

My purpose this morning is to present to you AASHTOs top policy priorities for your consideration in reauthorizing TEA 21. In short, we urge you to:

  • Grow the program to improve security and safety, relieve congestion, and meet preservation and rural needs;
  • Find a way to finance the program at the funding levels needed; and
  • Improve Environmental Stewardship and Streamlining.

First and foremost, in order to sustain a strong economy, to meet our basic mobility, safety and security needs we urge Congress to increase highway funding from $34 billion in FY2004 to at least $41 billion by FY2009, and transit funding from $7.5 billion to at least $10 billion.

 

GROW THE PROGRAM TO IMPROVE SECURITY AND SAFETY, RELIEVE CONGESTION, AND MEET PRESERVATION AND RURAL NEEDS

Our first priority is to grow the program to improve transportation security and safety.

Transportation Security. The heightened threat of terrorism introduces new imperatives to the Nations highway and transit programs. While our highway and transit network is robust and redundant, the consequences, direct and indirect, of a large-scale attack can be significant. Lost links could have long-term significant economic consequences not to mention the immediate harm done. It is also critical as a means through which first responders reach impacted areas and by which the public is removed from the area in danger.

Protecting the traveling public and commerce from terrorism will require measures to harden facilities from attack, improve emergency response capabilities, upgrade traffic management during crises, and enhance communications among the public, the military, law enforcement and rescue services. Federal, state and local transportation agencies have a joint responsibility to minimize vulnerability of critical transportation infrastructure assets and to prepare for the transportation role in emergency response and recovery.

Over the past year AASHTOs members examined the security issue, focusing on defense mobilization, asset protection, emergency response preparation and motor carrier security activities, including tracking and credentialing. The cost of enhancing highway and transit security is estimated at $2 billion annually in capital costs and at least $1.2 billion annually in operating costs. With at least 46 states confronting budget deficits this year and probably the next, the states simply do not have the financial means to meet these needs, as critical are they are. We believe a substantial portion must be met through homeland security and Federal Emergency Management Administration funding, and through increased Highway Trust Fund revenues.

Based on our assessment, AASHTOs recommendations for reauthorization focus on four aspects:

  • Defense mobilization needs To meet the militarys need for mobilization movements along key routes, AASHTO recommends enhanced funding of the core highway programs (Interstate Maintenance, NHS, Bridge Rehabilitation and Replacement, and STP);
  • Protection of highway assets To meet the longer term needs for hardening systems as we reconstruct and build new facilities, AASHTO again recommends a substantial increase in the core programs, not new programs;
  • Capabilities of the system for emergency response To have the ability to manage our systems in times of a major incident on or off the transportation system, we need better information and management systems, such as TV cameras, dynamic message signs, traffic management centers, highway advisory radios, and 511 motorist information systems. AASHTO recommends that the overall highway program be substantially increased and that states target at least $500 million per year from existing, substantially increased core programs; and
  • Special needs associated with goods movement There is an increased need for cargo tracking, including containers, and for heightened security at border checkpoints. AASHTO recommends that the Congress examine the need to fund these activities through general fund appropriations.

Transportation Safety. On a typical day, 114 people lose their lives on the nations highways. During the past decade, the highway fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled has been reduced from 2.1 fatalities to 1.5 lower but still the highest fatality rate of all the transportation modes. Although the fatality rate declined, the fact that more people traveled more miles 2.75 trillion in 2000 versus 2.15 trillion in 1990 means that overall, fatalities remain high. In the year 2000, a total of 41,821 people died on our highways and 3.2 million were injured. Studies by the U.S. Department of Transportation show that this staggering number of deaths and injuries results in over a $200 billion per year economic loss to the nation.

Highway fatalities are not limited to occupants of cars and trucks: there were 299 transit fatalities in 1999, and in 2000, 4739 pedestrians, 2862 motorcycle riders and 690 bicyclists were killed on the nations roads. The statistics are shocking and unacceptable. With demographic trends that indicate substantial growth in the most vulnerable of our population young adults and the elderly over the coming decades, the outlook suggests we can and must do more to address this major social and economic problem.

AASHTOs Strategic Highway Safety Plan sets an ambitious goal: save 5000 to 7000 lives each year and substantially reduce health care costs due to vehicle-related injuries. The plan identifies 22 key emphasis areas targeted at drivers, vehicles, highways, enforcement, emergency medical services and management. AASHTO believes that each state should develop a goal-oriented, performance-based comprehensive highway safety component incorporating education and enforcement as part of their long-range transportation planning process and be given the flexibility to invest resources where the most lives can be saved. To do this, the overall federal-aid highway program must be increased, and requires a three-part strategy:

  • Dedicate $1 billion per year to safety from additional Highway Trust Fund resources, with each states share allocated according to a comprehensive safety plan;
  • Consolidate the National Highway Traffic Safety Administrations safety grant programs into a single, flexible Section 402 program; and
  • Increase the effectiveness of the Surface Transportation Programs 10% safety set-aside by increasing its flexibility.

We also need to grow the program to fund congestion relief, system preservation, and rural needs.

Congestion. Too many Americans are spending time stuck in traffic. According to the Texas Transportation Institutes 2002 Urban Mobility Study, "Congestion is growing in areas of every sizeThe average annual delay per peak road traveler climbed from 16 hours in 1982 to 62 hours in 2000The congestion "bill" for the 75 metropolitan areas with populations of 100,000 and above in 2000 came to $62.5 billion, which has the value of 3.6 billion hours of delay and 5.7 billion gallons of excess fuel consumed."

Highway vehicles miles traveled increased from 2.1 to 2.7 trillion in the 1990s and are expected to increase another 600 billion miles by 2010. Fifty-four percent of this travel takes place on the major highways -- Interstates, expressways and major arterials. These are the very facilities under the states have jurisdictional responsibility -- which must serve interstate, interregional, intercity commercial and passenger traffic while increasingly they must serve as the main streets for connecting us with the activities of our daily lives.

Freight movement also is a significant contributor to congestion, especially in high use corridors, major chokepoints and important rail, truck and port hubs. Congestion deeply affects our nations ability to move goods and services, and threatens the health of our economy.

The congestion solution recommended by AASHTO includes a diverse set of options:

  • Add more highway and transit capacity;
  • Invest in ITS technologies to improve system operations; demand management; strategic planning and research; and
  • Better coordinate transportation with land use.

Preservation. One of the greatest legacies of the 20th Century is our network of highways, bridges and transit systems. The total value of our roads and bridges has been estimated by U.S. DOT at $1.4 trillion and transit assets are estimated to be at least $300 billion. This includes 8.2 million highway lane-miles, 590,000 bridges, approximately 150,000 transit vehicles, 10,000 miles of track, and 2,900 transit stations.

Americas highways and bridges, built over the last 50 years or more, are wearing out and must be preserved and modernized if they are to serve future generations. Transit has similar preservation needs.

U.S. DOT reports that in Fiscal Year 2000, approximately 47% of federal highway funds were used for system preservation purposes and almost 14% were used for bridge rehabilitation and replacement. Less than 13% of federal highway funds were used for new or relocated highway alignments and new bridges.3 According to U.S. DOTs 1999 Conditions and Performance Report 4 "in 1997 an estimated $23.2 billion was spent on system preservation, 47.6% of total capital outlay on all systems. System preservationdoes not include routine maintenance. An additional $26.3 billion was expended during 1997 on maintenance and traffic services. An estimated $7.6 billion (15.6%) of total capital outlay went for new roads and bridges in 1997. An additional $14 billion (28.8%) is estimated to have been used to add lanes to existing roadways."

According that that same 1999 Conditions and Performance report, an average annual investment of $56.5 billion would be needed by all levels of government over the next 20 years just to maintain conditions not performance of the highway and bridge, and $94 billion would be needed annually to improve the system. The average annual investment required to maintain existing conditions and operating performance of our transit systems was estimated at $10.8 billion and the annual cost to improve at $16 billion. When U.S. DOT testifies before you next week, I am certain that you will learn that these estimates have grown. We simply must invest more resources to preserve our highway and transit infrastructure assets.

Rural Needs. Sixty million Americans live in rural areas where they are connected to jobs, shopping, health care and other services by highways, and increasingly, by transit. Highway access is critical to the economic diversification which is necessary to sustain the economic vitality of our rural communities. Convenient access to rural areas is just as critical to urban resident to enable them to travel to enjoy recreational opportunities. The number of elder Americans is expected to double over the next thirty years and those elderly living in rural areas who can no longer drive safely are especially dependent on transit for access to health care and other services.

The international competitiveness of U.S. agricultural industry depends directly on efficient, low-cost transportation. Our competitiveness in the international marketplace is due in large part to the efficiency of our transportation system. Despite relatively high production costs, the U.S. maintains a positive trade balance in the agricultural sector. To remain competitive, the U.S. must maintain and improve the efficiency of its transportation network.

Safety improvements are needed to reduce the high rate of fatalities on rural roads. The U.S. General Accounting Office recently reported that, "Although only 40% of all vehicle miles are traveled on rural roads, 60% of traffic fatalities (24,524 in 2000) occurred on rural roads." Improvements are needed, especially on two-lane roads.

To address these needs, AASHTO supports:

  • An increase in highway funding of approximately 35%, including increase in the core highway programs including the National Highway System, the Interstate Maintenance Program, the Bridge Rehabilitation and Replacement Program and the Surface Transportation Program -- from approximately $106 billion under TEA 21 to approximately $142 billion. This increase will make available additional funds to fix urban bottlenecks and restore capacity to the urban highway network, to increase investment in rural two-lane roads and bridges, to improve rural access and connectivity, and to modernize the network of arterials which ties this country together and connects us with the world;
  • An increase for transit of approximately 44%, which would increase funding for new starts in rail and bus rapid transit, for expanding the capacity of existing metropolitan rail and bus systems and for expanding rural and elderly transit programs;
  • An increase for the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Program of approximately 35 % from $8.1 billion under TEA 21 to about $10.9 billion. AASHTO also urges Congress to grant states and MPOs maximum flexibility in programming CMAQ dollars for projects that reduce congestion or improve air quality, including elimination of the three-year "restriction" on highway and transit projects.
  • ITS/Operations Investments to improve rural traveler information and safety and to improve urban system operations and reliability. AASHTO recommends the following:
    1. $850 million for ITS national deployment to advance new technologies such as "511" travelers information systems, and the Commercial Vehicle Information System Network (CVISN) to expedite truck movement;
    2. $750 million for ITS national research and development to improve traffic incident response and clearance times, expedite the adoption of standards, and advance remote sensing, telematics and other technologies; and
    3. $500 million annually for operational investments to improve transportation security, hazardous materials and safety-related incident response and traffic management. Eligible purposes would include traffic surveillance, traffic management and traveler information systems.

FINANCE THE PROGRAM AT NEEDED FUNDING LEVELS

AASHTOs second priority is finding a way to finance the program at the funding levels needed.

In April, AASHTOs Board of Directors adopted a goal of increasing the highway program to at least $41 annually by 2009 and increasing the transit program to at least $10 billion annually by 2009. To achieve this goal, the Board directed AASHTO staff to explore a menu of options for generating additional revenues including, for example, tapping Highway Trust Fund reserves, gasohol transfers, indexing and raising fuel taxes. Their analysis shows that the six year highway program could grow somewhat without raising taxes, but would fall short of meeting AASHTOs funding targets.

The results of their analysis indicate the following:

  • Assuming a modest baseline of $28.9 billion, if we ask Congress to "do nothing," then revenue growth attributed to expanded economic activity and travel growth would provide an additional $17. 6 billion from 2004 to 2009. While this would enable us to expand the program by approximately 11 percent over TEA 21s total funding level, it is projected that purchasing power will decline by 26% from 1996 to 2009, resulting in a real decline from current funding levels.
  • Other incremental options include: transferring general fund receipts from the 2.5 cent gasohol tax ($4 billion), replacing the 5.3 cent gasohol subsidy ($8 billion), drawing down Highway Trust Fund reserves ($4.4 billion), recapturing interest earned on the Highway Account balance ($2.5 billion), indexing the fuel tax to the Consumer Price Index ($15.2 billion) and increasing the fuel tax by five cents ($46.7 billion)

AASHTOs staff was also authorized to assess the feasibility of leveraging new revenues through a new federally-chartered Transportation Finance Corporation. Based on six months of consultation, they have concluded that AASHTOs goals of increasing the highway program to at least $41 billion and transit to at least $10 billion can be achieved through this approach.

Congress would be asked to charter a new, private non-profit Transportation Finance Corporation, which would be authorized to issue $60 billion in tax credit bonds. Seventeen billion dollars of the bond proceeds would be invested in government securities that, over 25 years, would generate a return sufficient to pay off the bond principal. $34 billion would go to highways and be apportioned to the states by FHWA. $8.5 billion would be apportioned to transit agencies. The Department of Treasury would be reimbursed for the annual cost of the tax credits from Highway Trust Fund revenues. There would be no impact on the federal deficit. However, the TFC would leverage $18 billion in new revenues from the Highway Trust Fund by a factor of more than two to one.

State DOTs stand ready to work with Congress to find a way to fund the program at the level needed, through this or other ways.

 

IMPROVE ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP AND STREAMLINING

Our third priority is improving Environmental Stewardship and Streamlining.

Delivering transportation projects better and faster requires a double commitment to doing a better job of protecting the environment, and to expediting project delivery.

Stewardship means a renewed commitment to make protection and enhancement of the environment an integral part of our core mission. AASHTO believes that there are opportunities for voluntary environmental stewardship activities and approaches during every phase of the transportation delivery process: planning, design, construction and operations/maintenance.

To assist state DOTs in this effort, AASHTO has developed, in partnership with the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, the AASHTO Center for Environmental Excellence. The mission of the Center is to augment the capacity of state DOTs to deliver environmentally sound transportation projects by encouraging environmental stewardship and promoting innovative approaches to streamline the project delivery process in ways that can be easily replicated. AASHTO urges your support for funding for AASHTOs Center for Environmental Excellence to provide states with technical assistance

Interagency programmatic approaches can be useful in providing solutions to environmental challenges posed and faced by transportation projects. Innovative agreements and approaches proposed by federal and state agencies should be encouraged. AASHTO urges that funds be provided to the states and federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to demonstrate how programmatic approaches can improve protection of wetlands, habitat and other resources that may be affected by surface transportation projects.

Over the last ten years though the transportation enhancement program, $4.9 billion has been programmed for projects such as building bike paths and preserving historic bridges. The transportation sector is the largest financial contributor of historic preservation and archeological projects conducted in the United States. AASHTO supports this valuable program and recommends that the funding for the TE program remain stable, and if the overall size of the surface transportation program is increased, there should be a proportionate increase in funding for the TE program.

Streamlining. With stewardship increasingly becoming part of the state transportation agency culture, the goal of providing better transportation projects is being realized. However, we must deliver transportation projects better and faster in the years to come.

Streamlining means reforming the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process to reduce unnecessary delays. Over the last several years, FHWA and AASHTO have both conducted a number of studies examining the issue of delays in the project delivery process. Key findings from these studies include the following:

  • For projects in which an EIS pursuant to NEPA was required, the time for project completion was 13 years.
  • The length of time for preparing an EIS pursuant to NEPA has increased from 2.2 years in the 1970s to 5 years in the 1990s.
  • When a Section 404 Wetlands permit is requires, the EIS preparation time increased by 2 years.
  • When Section 4(f) approval (regarding the protection of historic or park resources) was required, the EIS preparation time increased by 2 years.
  • AASHTO recognizes, however, that studies are only as good as the methodology used, the questions asked, and the data provided. Therefore, AASHTO, believes it is time to move the debate beyond competing studies and facts over whether there are indeed delays in the environmental review process, towards a more thoughtful discussion on process improvement, i.e., how to achieve a more effective and efficient decision-making process.

The concept of "delay" has become simply a shorthand term for a deeper problem a decision-making process that has grown so cumbersome, complex, and unwieldy that it no longer serves the practitioners well. The complexity of the NEPA process increases gradually, year by year, as a result of new laws, regulations, court decisions, technologies, and policy decisions. Taken alone, each new addition to the process may be worthwhile. For example, there has been increased emphasis in recent years on issues such as environmental justice and secondary and cumulative impacts. But as these areas receive increased attention, there has been no corresponding attention paid to ensuring the process works well together, i.e., that inefficiencies and redundancies are eliminated. Rather, the entire process tends to expand in scope; the "menu" of issues to be addressed and tasks to be completed expands. The result is greater and greater complexity yielding to greater and greater inefficiencies.

AASHTO is recommending the following changes, which we believe are conservative and preserve the fundamental premise behind the National Environmental Policy Act. We believe these changes will help to eliminate duplication and unintended inefficiencies in the system, thereby strengthening the overall NEPA decision-making process. Moreover, these are changes that can only be accomplished legislatively.

  • Improve the link between planning and NEPA In lieu of the Major Investment Study, states are developing new and innovative ways to integrate planning with NEPA. We urge Congress to direct U.S. DOT to eliminate the MIS requirement.
  • Reform the NEPA process We urge Congress to clarify and confirm roles and responsibilities including those for lead agencies and cooperating agencies; establish default deadlines for comment periods; clarify and bring logic to the purpose and need statements and the required range and level of detail for analyzing alternatives;
  • Reform Section 4(f) Section 4(f) is part of the statutes governing U.S. DOT and applies to projects affecting parks, recreation areas, refuges and historic sites. We urge Congress to make changes to address the lack of flexibility, balance and common sense found in the way the programs requirements have evolved as a result of court rulings, regulations and administration interpretations. Specifically, consider exempting projects that have no significant impact, allow flexibility in determining whether an alternative is "prudent," allow Section 106 compliance to satisfy Section 4(f) requirements for historic properties; establish in statute that highways on the NHS, including all Interstates, shall not be treated as historic properties for purposes of Section 106 or 4(f). Currently AASHTO is consulting with historic preservation interests on how we can resolve problems with current law through commonsense solutions all parties can agree to;
  • Delegate environmental responsibilities We urge Congress to delegate to the states, those U.S. DOT environmental responsibilities for projects which qualify for categorical exclusions.

AASHTO does not believe that these recommendations are radical. In fact, we were encouraged to see the statutory changes recently adopted by the House of Representatives to streamline the airport approval process, and hope similar progress can be made regarding highways and transit. We believe several changes in law are needed to eliminate unnecessary delays, but without weakening environmental protections. AASHTO membership stands ready to work with the Committee to improve the current decision-making process to ensure that future needs of both the transportation system and the natural and human environments are met today and in the future.

Mr. Chairman, we thank you for the opportunity to testify and would be happy to answer any questions.

 

3 Unifying America - 2001 Report to the American People, U.S. Federal Highway Administration, November, 2001

4 1999 Status of the Nations Highways, Bridges and Transit: Conditions and Performance, U.S. Department of Transportation, May, 2000