Legislation recently introduced by Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, would establish for the first time national performance objectives for federal transportation policy and funding.

The Federal Surface Transportation Policy and Planning Act of 2009 (S.1036) articulates clear goals that would guide the combined efforts by federal, state, and metropolitan transportation agencies. These same goals would provide a benchmark by which agencies would measure the effectiveness of transportation plans and programs, and create mechanisms to ensure accountability for federal transportation dollars. The bill addresses pressing national issues such as economic prosperity, energy security, public safety, climate change, infrastructure maintenance, and sustainability and livability -- proposing specific objectives such as:

  • Reduce national surface transportation delays per capita on an annual basis
  • Increase the percentage of system-critical surface transportation assets that are in a state of good repair by 20 percent by 2030
  • Reduce national motor vehicle-related fatalities by 50 percent by 2030
  • Reduce national per capita motor vehicle miles traveled on an annual basis
  • Increase the total usage of public transportation, intercity passenger rail services, and non-motorized transportation on an annual basis
  • Reduce national surface transportation-generated carbon dioxide levels by 40 percent by 2030
  • Increase the proportion of national freight transportation provided by non-highway or multimodal services by 10 percent by 2020
  • Reduce passenger and freight transportation delays and congestion at international points of entry on an annual basis.

Many transportation advocates see the establishment of such national objectives as central to reform efforts regarding the next transportation authorization bill. Without such guidance, advocates warn, hundreds of billions of dollars could easily continue to be spent in a counterproductive and wasteful manner. The last transportation bill, known by its acronym SAFETEA-LU, authorized federal spending of $289 billion over five years . Some Congressional leaders are aiming for a substantial increase in transportation funding in the range of $400-500 billion over five or six years , citing the pressing need to invest in transportation infrastructure for America's future. Transportation for America, the leading transportation reform coalition with whom EESI has been collaborating, recognizes the need for substantial increases in infrastructure investment, but has asserted that it would only support increased funding if it is accompanied by substantial reform.

EESI has been highlighting the importance of this legislation to Members of Congress and key stakeholders and helping identify and engage other organizations that have an interest in the development of national transportation objectives. EESI's efforts helped bring over 80 national and state organizations to sign a letter of support that is being sent to Members of the U.S. Senate this week, with many other organizations sending their own separate letters and communications of support.