Road Work: Michigan Chambers Help with Transportation Funding
After a long and hard fight in the legislature and at the ballot box, Michigan finally has a long-term plan for road funding.
Transportation funding has been a top priority for several years, but the final solution wasn’t found until after voters in May struck down a measure that would have increased the state sales tax by 1% to help raise $1.2 billion for transportation. In the worst defeat for a Michigan ballot measure in 52 years, 80% of voters said no. While it was clear that this particular plan was not what voters wanted, the public and the business community were still clamoring for a solution to solve a looming transportation crisis.
According to a study released in the spring, 38% of Michigan’s major roads are in poor condition, 45% are fair, and only 17% are good. Under current funding, the Michigan Transportation Asset Management Council estimates that 53% of those major roads will be in poor condition by 2025. With the “Pure Michigan” campaign spending money to draw travelers to Michigan, and countless other industries relying on surface transportation, it was clear that funding infrastructure improvements was overdue.
Transportation has long been a major priority for the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. A 2015 member survey found that transportation was a top concern, with 64% saying that poor road conditions had an impact on their business. So, when a balanced package was being considered in the legislature to raise the $1.2 billion with a combination of new revenue and existing state dollars, the chamber moved to support the measure.
Grand Rapids joined five other regional chambers in support of a common sense, long-term funding solution calling for $600 million in dedicated funding from existing state revenues, and $600 million in new money. The other five chambers were The Chamber of Commerce – Grand Haven, Spring Lake, Ferrysburg, the Michigan West Coast Chamber of Commerce, the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce, the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce.
According to Josh Lunger, director of Government Affairs in Grand Rapids, “the unified show of support was helpful in advancing the plan.” On Nov. 4, the Michigan Legislature passed the compromise package which was signed a week later by Gov. Rick Snyder. The $600 million in new revenue will come from $400 million from increasing the gas tax 7.3 cents per gallon and creating diesel parity, and $200 million from a 20% increase in registration fees.
The revenue increases take effect in January 2017. Moving forward, Lunger stressed the importance of working hand in hand with legislators to effectively plan for future budget pressures and the shift of $600 million in “existing state dollars". He urges deliberate and thoughtful consideration to determine where best to make changes so that important programs, such as Early Childhood Education and Workforce Development, are not compromised.
Charlotte Chamber: All in for transportation funding
As part of their Grow America tour, Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Transportation Secretary (and former Charlotte Mayor) Anthony Foxx met with local business and civic leaders in Charlotte this week. Their tour serves to promote the President's proposal to rebuild or replace America's crumbling infrastructure.
The Charlotte Chamber of Commerce was in attendance and is in support of congressional action on infrastructure funding. (Click here to hear reactions from chamber leaders invited to attend.) According to Bob Morgan, president of the chamber, the Charlotte region currently has two million residents, and is expected to reach four million within the next 20-30 years. As the fourth fastest growing state in the nation, funding infrastructure to support that growth is a major concern. Although the Charlotte region has great plans for economic growth and infrastructure improvement, their ability to execute those plans relies heavily on federal action.
The president's proposal, which includes $478 billion in transportation infrastructure investment over six years, serves to solve the transportation funding problem. The Highway Trust Fund is expected to once again run out of money in May 2015 if congress does not act. There is still much debate over the best way to pay for increased transportation funding, but one thing is clear: something needs to be done, and soon.
Although transportation funding is a priority in Charlotte, it is also vital to all cities, regions and states across the country. A nationwide coalition of Chambers has banded together in support of congressional action on this issue. To find out more information about the coalition, their letter to congress, and how you can join the Charlotte Chamber in support of this issue, visit acce.org/transportation.
Florida Chamber Strives to Keep Pedestrians Safe
In a study by Smart Growth American and the National Complete Streets Coalition, the Tampa - St. Petersburg area was ranked the 2nd most dangerous city for pedestrians. The Florida Department of Transportation reports that from 2009 to 2013, there were 123 combined pedestrian and bicycle crashes along Gulf Boulevard, resulting in five fatalities. For an area that relies heavily on tourism to sustain the economy, this is not good news.
After attempts to improve safety along the stretch of beaches from St. Pete Beach to Clearwater Beach through engineering measures, such as installing flashing lights at crosswalks and even providing pedestrians flags to wave to alert drivers as they cross the street, additional effort was still needed. The Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce, Florida DOT and Center for Urban Transportation Research have partnered with area hotels to hand out cards containing safety tips to remind visitors how to safely move about.
Roughly 30,000 rack cards and 20,000 smaller cards about the size of a hotel room key were printed and distributed in 2013. Both of these materials contain 'WalkWise tips' including suggestions to avoid use of cell phones, follow Walk/Don't Walk signals and wear bright colors. Hotels and area authorities hope that these small reminders will keep pedestrians alert and vigilant to dangers around them and reduce the number of incidents.
An additional 10,000 cards were printed for 2014 and early reports indicate that the situation is improving. The Department of Transportation hopes to decrease the number of pedestrian fatalities by 20 percent by 2018.
To read accounts of this initiative, explore the links below:
The St. Petersburg Tribune, 'Gulf Boulevard hotels give tourist tips on crossing dangerous street"
10 News Tampa Bay Sarasota, 'Hotel cards promote safety on Gulf Boulevard'
Bay News 9, 'Pinellas beach hotels offering safety tips to visitors'
How States are Building the Nation’s Transportation Systems Report
The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and the Center for Excellence in Project Finance at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) have partnered to produce a review of transportation governance and finance for all 50 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico. Read the full report here.
This report focuses on transportation finance and the roles and relationships among the branches of state government that are most active in transportation issues. The report also offers a rich diversity of approaches to govern, finance and ultimate deliver America’s transportation systems.
Brookings: Missed Opportunity Transit Report
It seemed fitting that on my way to the Brookings Institute yesterday morning for the presentation on Missed Opportunity: Transit and Jobs in Metropolitan America, I hit a typical DC traffic snag and crawled from Alexandria to DC for two long hours. I fancy myself to be a runner and smiled a weak smile of satisfaction when I discovered I could have run there faster than I could drive in my car. I then chastised myself for not taking the Metro to a Transit report unveiling. What was I thinking?
Brookings had a great line-up to discuss the roll out of the Missed Opportunity report. Robert Puentes, Senior Fellow at Brookings gave an overview of the study and there was a panel discussion about the implications of the findings followed by Secretary LaHood and Secretary Donovan discussing the federal role.
The real star of the show was the Missed Opportunity report. Visit Brookings site to read the full report and all of the supporting content. Be sure to check out the interactive map.
“Dr. Gridlock”, Robert Thomson, of the Washington Post moderated the panel of Keith Parker, CEO, Via Transit Systems, San Antonio, TX; Matthew Mahood, President and CEO, Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce; Ponsella Hardaway, Executive Director, Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength (MOSES); and Alan Berube, Senior Fellow and Research Director, Metropolitan Policy Program, from Brookings. Here are some of the things I sent out into the twittersphere during the panel:
Following the panel discussion, Bruce Katz joined Secretary Ray LaHood (Transportation) and Secretary Shaun Donovan (HUD) to talk about what the Feds are doing about transit. Secretary LaHood and Secretary Donovan have been working together very closely over the past two and a half years. Again, here are some notable quotes that I tweeted:
Again, here is the link for the Missed Opportunity page on Brookings site: Missed Opportunity: Transit and Jobs in Metropolitan America.