October 27, 2006
AASHTO is Coming to Town: What Does it Mean for the CRC?
The American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials (think ODOT and it's 49 brethren) is holding its annual meeting here in Portland. It started a couple of days ago.
Part of the meeting is to determine a legislative agenda, and preliminary work for this was done at a subcommittee meeting in Minneapolis last month. Reading through the notes from some of the working groups, I was struck by one recommendation:
2. Nationally Significant Needs – Do not fund projects of national significance through congressional earmarks or nationally allocated funds. Instead increase apportioned funds to states, so that nationally significant needs in a state or in multi-state areas are addressed through cooperative efforts using state apportioned federal funds matched by state funds, and/or other locally provided funds.
So why is that important? Because the strategy for funding the Columbia River Crossing is to pitch it to Congress as a national priority. It's a key bottleneck on the major west coast trade corridor. So we would ask for funds above and beyond our normal allocation.
What the AASHTO recommendation would say is, no, the crossing is an Oregon/Washington problem, and they need to prioritize it from their funds (maybe getting some help from California and Idaho).
Seems like that kind of funding model would cast the project in a whole new light.
Now I have no idea what kind of clout AASHTO has with Congress, but somehow I'm betting that ODOT and WashDOT might not be voting for this particular policy plank.
October 28, 2006 12:09 PM
This is the thing the Amtrak guys where going to recently. The CEO and all... re my recent #507 south bound Amtrak Cascades trip.
I made note of their general attitudes on my blog. I also noted the almost complete contrast of the Government Liaison that was with them (It's sad companies have to have an actual Liaison with the Government, as if a company and the Government are different countries with different languages or something).
It was a very interesting trip.
October 30, 2006 1:40 PM
I'm also not sure that we should take this plank in a vacuum. It may be intended as a part of a larger national transportation funding reform package, i.e. potentially devolving control of the federal gas tax to the states. All of this and more is being studied by the National Transportation Study Commission (or whatever they're called), and they should be coming up with a set of recommendations next year.
Still, this is a good point -- how will projects like this get accomplished in the future? Will the federal gas tax figure into the financing package, and if so, how will the money get distributed and allocated?