AASHTO Journal, 25 September 2015
The U.S. Department of Transportation is making good on its pledge to focus attention on what type of infrastructure changes the nation needs rather than simply focusing on the next authorization bill, by launching a series of 11 “Beyond Traffic megaregion forums” around the country.
That is a followup to the USDOT’s “Beyond Traffic” report from earlier this year that projected growth in demand over the next three decades and discussed what that will mean in planning new construction projects to increase capacity or adjust for changes in consumers’ lifestyles.
DOT says the sharpest population growth anticipated in that report, which projects 70 million more people living in the United States by 2045, will occur in 11 rapidly expanding metropolitan areas it calls megaregions.
“Everyone is a transportation expert of their own neighborhoods; we know our own cars, roads, bridges, transit lines, and rail lines better than anyone else,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “So we are going to the 11 regions in this country that will experience the most explosive growth to hear directly from people in those areas about their transportation challenges, and to listen to their ideas to solve them.”
But the meetings also give USDOT officials a sounding board for their contention that Congress needs to stop crafting transportation legislation such as the next highway or aviation bills by focusing on current program costs and how to fund them.
Both Foxx and Deputy Secretary Victor Mendez have been saying the nation needs lawmakers to set goals for what type of infrastructure system they want to produce, and then determine what that costs and how to pay for it.
Both have also said the Senate-passed DRIVE Act that would reauthorize highway, transit and rail programs proposes raising investment levels by too little to prevent congestion from worsening.
And the quick succession of those regional meetings takes place while Congress is still trying to come up with a way to pay for surface transportation programs for more than a few months or years at a time. Many national industry groups are pressing lawmakers to complete a long-term bill this year.
In the 11 forums, the announcement said, “transportation infrastructure already struggles to keep up with current demand. Holding the forums in these areas will allow citizens, elected officials, metropolitan planning organization directors, transportation industry partners, business owners and community leaders to bring their region-specific experience to discussions on the challenges identified in the report and potential solutions to those challenges.”
Mendez went to Sacramento, Calif., Sept. 18 to hold the first town hall-style forum with Mayor Kevin Johnson. He followed with the second one in Phoenix Sept. 21, with Mayor Greg Stanton. The next was set for Sept. 28 in Long Beach, Calif., followed by a Sept. 30 event in Austin, Texas.
Here is the full list of cities and their dates.
During October, the forum series will continue in Orlando, Fla., Seattle, Boston, New Orleans, Indianapolis, Charleston, S.C., and Denver.
The announcement included links by each city that gives the individual event locations and times, such as this one for Orlando.