Jim Charlier, president of Charlier Associates shares his understanding of the future of Federal, State and Local transportation funding. Here are some of the highlights:
1. Trends indicate that people are buying less gas. There are a number of factors at play here: higher prices at the pump, more fuel-efficient vehicles, and people are driving less–the total number of vehicle miles traveled per year in the United States is no longer growing:
2. Because people are driving less, they are buying less gas. Because people are buying less gas, the government is collecting less gas tax–which is a cents-per-gallon type of arrangement. Because the government is collecting less gas tax, this is becoming a less significant source for funding for transportation projects. Also, because of inflation, the purchasing power of gas tax revenues is dwindling:
3. So, we need to get more creative about how we fund transportation projects. Sources for federal surface transportation funds are shifting away from traditional cash sources, general taxation and public sector investment. Instead, we are seeing more private sector involvement, through “public-private partnerships,” more financing or borrowed funding, and more “user-pays” systems like tolls, fares, or fees per vehicle-mile traveled.
Jim mentioned THIS RESOURCE for more information about alternative approaches to funding highways.
4. At the state level, we are also seeing a shift toward more private-sector involvement and more borrowed funding for transportation projects. But we are also seeing a shift towards general taxation, including state-level gas taxes, wholesale gas taxes, retail taxes, and other taxation measures:
5. So what can local governments in the more rural areas of our region do to get transportation projects completed? Jim suggests greater collaboration both within and between governments. Transportation departments can collaborate with trails and recreation, environmental, parks, wildlife, and other departments for funding, project support, and staff time. Neighboring cities can work together and with state departments of transportation and other state departments for a better shot at success. Jim provided the example of Rifle, Colorado, which is taking a regional approach to transit planning:
6. Rifle’s downtown action plan is a good example of project planning that will help Rifle to compete for funding and grant opportunities. The plan is complete with a thorough list of well-described projects, with maps, conceptual designs and budget estimations, prioritized and phased in over time:
Want to learn more? Check out the webinar–the recording and powerpoint presentation are available HERE.