SAN ANTONIO, Texas—The APWA SAFETEA-LU Reauthorization Task Force approved a position statement Monday encouraging U.S. legislatures to preserve and enhance federal investment in surface transportation programs. Not surprisingly, the statement also calls for increased investment in improving road and bridge conditions and roadway operations as SAFETEA-LU's highest priority.

The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Act (SAFETEA-LU), which authorizes $286.4 billion for state and local surface transportation programs, expires in 2009—and Congress is expected to reauthorize these programs. The task force was appointed last year to create a position statement that helps guide policymakers's upcoming reauthorization discussions.

The statement recommends that Congress:

  • Raise the motor fuel tax and index it to restore purchasing power lost to inflation since the last increase in the 1990s.
  • Explore the establishment of vehicle-mileage fees to offset revenue losses caused by more fuel-efficient vehicles.
  • Expand access to innovative financing tools, such as public-private partnerships and tolling.
  • Utilize a utility system/enterprise funds model for transportation funding that creates an ongoing revenue stream.
  • Provide incentives that encourage local financing.

The APWA also urges Congress to continue to:

  • Protect and preserve existing transportation facilities by increasing funding for road and bridge maintenance
  • Improve goods movement both inside and outside the U.S. through needed infrastructure
  • Enhance safety for users of the transportation system
  • Further energy dependence through multimodalism (by continuing programs such as the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program)
  • Enhance flexibility in the use of federal funds and increase process streamlining to maximize the effeciency of each dollar spent in the federal funding process.

The statement requests that local government entities receive federal and state funding for the full costs of providing local transportation networks that connect to regional and national transportation systems.

At the suggestion of task member John Okamoto, chief administrative officer of Port of Seattle, the APWA will also fund and create a grassroots campaign to help members support these position statement recommendations.

"Advocacy is where we start now, versus policy, but we have to in some way get our word out," agreed John German, PE, task force member and public works director of San Antonio, Texas.

Task force members also discussed the I-35W bridge collapse and how resulting policy implications will affect the future of transportation. The APWA position statement states that "the federal government must maintain a leadership role in maintaining the highest safety standards."

Task members agreed that the bridge collapse represents a crises that has yet to be resolved through adequate funding for aging or deficient infrastructure.

Ken Fuller, public works director of Bend, Ore., compared the state of the nation's infrastructure funding with a lake in his area. Although the body of water was horribly polluted, the city that owned it was dragging its heals in cleaning it up. The local American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals decided to move things along by placing euthanized animals around the lake. Sure enough, the canine corpses scared the city into action. Maybe, he said, U.S. infrastructure managers could get the funding to start flowing by taking a page from the animal shelter's playbook.

"Let's plant some dead dogs out there," he says.

This article is part of PUBLIC WORKS magazine's live coverage from the 2007 APWA Show. Click here to read more articles from the show.