First publishedin ITS International on www.ITSInternational.com
Paul Feenstra is executive VP of Keystone Public Affairs, a government relations and strategic communications rm which advocates for clients in the transportation, technology, energy and defense industries. Prior to joining Keystone, he was VP of Government and Public Affairs at ITS America, where he continues to serve as a legislative consultant.
On behalf of ITS America, Paul Feenstra maps out implications and opportunities for the ITS industry.
A critical milestone was reached last month when the US Congress
passed, and President Obama signed, legislation reauthorising the nation’s surface transportation programmes, breaking a nearly three-year log-jam which had stymied critical transportation reforms and delayed much-needed infrastructure projects.
The law, numbered P.L. 112-141 but known as MAP-21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century), provides funding for highway, transit, research and other surface programmes through the end of Fiscal Year 2014.
Policymakers managed to cobble together enough money to fund transportation programnes at current levels plus inflation over the next two-plus years, despite punting on the critical transportation financing reforms which will be needed to address the growing insolvency of the fuel tax-supported Highway Trust Fund.
But while the revenue debate will continue (a discussion in which the ITS community must play a key role), new policy reforms will begin taking place on 1 October that will greatly increase the need for technology solutions and provide new opportunities for companies in the ITS industry.
One of the significant reforms, advocated by ITS America
and others, is the transition to a more performance-based transportation system with a revised statewide and metropolitan planning process that emphasises efficient system management and operations to help achieve performance goals.
Declaring that “Performance management will transform the Federal-aid highway program and provide a means to the most efficient investment of Federal transportation funds…,” the bill establishes seven goal areas that are deemed to be in the national interest: safety, infrastructure condition, congestion reduction, system reliability, freight movement and economic vitality, environmental sustainability, and reduced project delivery delays.
Based on these high-level goals, the US Department of Transportation
(DoT) will establish performance standards and measures in consultation with State DoTs, metropolitan areas and other stakeholders. Among these are more traditional measures such as pavement and bridge condition and traffic fatality and serious injury rates. However, the bill also requires performance measures to be established for categories including traffic congestion, on-road mobile source emissions, and freight movement.
Once US DoT issues its final performance measures rulemaking (which is required in 18 months), States will have one year to set specific performance targets which reflect the identified measures, with metropolitan areas following suit 180 days later. This tiered approach reflects the balancing act in the US between Federal, state and local government jurisdictions, while also ensuring that transportation agencies at all levels are accountable for improving safety and system performance and ensuring the nation’s infrastructure is in a state of good repair.
Gone (for now) are the days of Congressional earmarks and unaccountable spending. While this performance-based approach is good policy, it is also good business for the ITS industry. ITS will be needed to both measure performance in categories like congestion and system reliability, and also to improve performance across the board – from safety and infrastructure condition to freight movement and environmental sustainability.
Four core programmes
Another reform in MAP-21 is the consolidation of dozens of highway programs into four core programmes – National Highway Performance, Surface Transportation, Highway Safety Improvement, and Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality. These programs represent the bulk of the funding for state and local agencies, and ITS technologies are broadly eligible for funding in each programme with additional language to encourage specific solutions like real-time traffic and transit information, electronic toll collection, travel demand management, and other advanced traffic management and pricing strategies.
The law also requires US DoT to establish a new National Freight Policy and encourage individual states to develop their own freight plans which will be incentivised to invest in ITS technologies, operational strategies and other measures to improve freight efficiency and safety. The law will also speed up the adoption of ITS to improve the safety and efficiency of public transit systems including bus rapid transit (BRT).