A transportation bill passed by Congress will fund many of the nation's transportation projects at roughly $120 billion over the next two years. But a long list of infrastructure needs won't be met.
A transportation bill passed by Congress in July 2012 will fund many of the nation's transportation projects at roughly $120 billion over the next two years. But a long list of infrastructure needs won't be met, prompting governments and agencies to formulate creative ways to garner additional financial support.
"There is a significant demand for transportation infrastructure all over the nation, and that demand is only partially being met with this new bill," says Mike DeBacker, director of the Transportation practice at Burns & McDonnell. "The good news is that there are other workable solutions out there."
Burns & McDonnell has clients on the cutting edge of building public and private partnerships to fund a variety of projects nationwide. Tolls, fuel and transportation taxes are also being used to supplement funds and move a backlog of infrastructure projects forward.
"We needed a bigger and longer-term bill, and we didn't get either of those," DeBacker says. "But given the political environment and the fact that it's an election year, I think most people are grateful we have something."
What Bill Covers
The transportation legislation extends federal highway, rail and transit programs for 27 months, authorizing $120 billion in spending, financed by the existing 18.4 cents-a-gallon gasoline tax and the 24.4 cents-a-gallon diesel tax, as well as about $19 billion in transfers from the Treasury Department.
The bill consolidates federal transportation programs and gives states more flexibility in spending money from Washington, D.C. It contains numerous safety initiatives including requirements aimed at enhancing bus safety. And it allows advocates of bike and pedestrian paths to compete for money with other transportation projects.
While previous bills financed specific projects through earmarks, the current bill takes a different approach: Money is allocated to states based on a formula, leaving states to determine work based on their own statewide plans.
The bill also includes an infusion into the federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA), which provides inexpensive loans to agencies for transportation projects with regional or national significance, and for those that spur economic development.
What Comes Next
Accordingly, Burns & McDonnell's Transportation practice is working on a handful of major projects across the country as it gains momentum in markets including Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago and Dallas.
Boosting the firm's extensive transportation infrastructure roadway experience, Burns & McDonnell in 2010 acquired the assets of Harrington & Cortelyou (H&C), a Kansas City, Mo.-based company with a 100-year legacy in bridge, highway and roadway design. H&C has designed several high-profile bridges over the Missouri River and more than 800 bridges throughout Missouri.
Congress is likely to start working on the next surface transportation bill in mid- to late 2013. Advocacy groups say stakeholders need to start thinking now about how to preserve their victories and reverse their defeats.
Other Bill Highlights
- Reauthorizes federal public transportation programs at current funding levels for two fiscal years.
- Improves the safety of public transportation systems by improving the effectiveness of federal and state oversight and requiring public transportation safety plans at transit agencies.
- Establishes a system to monitor and manage public transportation assets to improve safety and increase reliability and performance.
- Eliminates earmarks from federal transit programs.
- Streamlines the process for transit construction to accelerate project delivery by eliminating duplicative steps and speeds federal decision-making.
- Establishes "State of Good Repair Program" for assisting public transportation systems in addressing the backlog of maintenance.
For more information, contact Mike DeBacker, 816-349-6659.
Transportation stakeholders can monitor government activities at www.dot.gov/map21.