AASHTO Journal, 15 March 2013
U.S. Department of Transportation modal administrators testified at a House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit hearing Thursday, updating committee members on their progress in the implementation of the new surface transportation bill, MAP-21. Questions and conversation also touched upon future transportation funding and the issues they are dealing with regarding the sequester.
The hearing, “Implementing MAP-21: Progress Report from U.S. DOT Modal Administrators,” featured testimony from Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez, Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Anne Ferro, and National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator David Strickland. Subcommittee Chair Tom Petri (R-WI) kicked off the hearing, touting the performance measure requirements, expanded categorical exclusions, program consolidation, and transit disaster relief. USDOT administrators all agreed that these features are among the strengths of MAP-21.
“Thank you for all your work on MAP-21,” Ferro said. “The bill has provided us with key enforcement tools to carry out our mission.” She then went on to discuss FMCSA’s progress in implementing MAP-21, which will allow the organization to get “high-risk” motor carriers and their drivers off the road.
Mendez said FHWA moved very quickly in implementing MAP-21 and was happy with many of the bill’s new features, including the expansion of the TIFIA program and a focus on freight issues.
“MAP-21 provided DOT with unprecedented opportunities to improve freight movement throughout our nation, including the establishment of a national freight policy and national freight network and the development of national and state freight plans,” Mendez said.
While implementation of MAP-21 was the main focus of the hearing, discussion shifted toward the problems the administrators encountered in dealing with the sequester. Rogoff was especially concerned about the effects of the sequester.
“The sequester struck $656 million from FTA’s budget. It reduced program funding for our Capital Investment Grants program by almost $100 million. This will mean that few if any additional New Starts construction projects will be fundable in the near term,” Rogoff said. “Even more troubling is the fact that ongoing major New Starts and Small Starts projects will experience increasing borrowing costs as FTA will now be required by sequestration to slow its scheduled grant payments to projects for which we have already made written financing agreements.”
While USDOT modal administrators all said they are focusing on implementing MAP-21, they and members of the House T&I Committee are already concerned about how to increase transportation investment and find additional funding for the next transportation bill, which would go into effect in roughly a year and a half.
“Funding is the biggest challenge we face moving forward,” said House T&I Chair Bill Shuster (R-PA) during the hearing. “We need to look at all options that are out there, we need to think outside the box.”
Additional information, including a video of the hearing and each witness’ testimony, is available here.