76th Annual  Meeting
The U.S. Conference of Mayors
76th Annual Meeting
June 20-24, 2008



WHEREAS, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), the multi-year federal surface transportation law, is due to expire September 30, 2009; and

WHEREAS, this law was the second renewal of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991, the landmark transportation reform statute that provided state and local decision-makers with added flexibility to develop and fund a range of transportation solutions, reduced modal bias in federal planning and funding rules, expanded public participation in shaping transportation investment programs, allowed increased focus on multi-modal investments, and extended greater decision-making authority to local elected officials served by Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), key features that were largely retained by reauthorizations in 1998 and 2005; and

WHEREAS, despite increasing federal financial commitments to the nation’s surface transportation needs, local efforts to use these flexibilities and diversify the mix of transportation investments through improved transit services, enhanced facilities for safer walking and bicycling, deployment of congestion relief strategies through better system operations and the adoption of transportation control measures (TCMs), or maintenance of local infrastructure especially local bridge repair – have been challenged on several fronts; and

WHEREAS, unlike federal transit resources which largely flow to local, regional and state agencies providing transit services, based mostly on passengers served, existing law continues to vest states with broad authority to decide how other federal transportation funds are invested within the state, with either few or no federal standards to measure and report on performance and outcomes, maintain existing facilities in a state of good repair, distribute funds equitably among local areas or regions within the state, or target resources to specific national goals such improving air quality; and

WHEREAS, many states have either reduced or restrained the relative share of federal transportation funds allocated to city and local area transportation priorities, such as safety improvements, transit capital needs, pedestrian and bicycling facilities, local maintenance projects and bridge repairs, air quality projects, and TCMs, which raises important issues as mayors and local government leaders in metropolitan areas seek to provide alternatives to automobile use that will reduce congestion, improve air quality, curb energy use, address climate protection goals, and help households and businesses address rising transportation costs; and

WHEREAS, current law enables these practices in many states because local officials have limited authority over project selection and funding allocations, controlling less than ten cents of every federal transportation dollar, even though cities and other local governments own most of the nation’s highways, bridges, transit systems, airports, ports and related surface transportation facilities, such as sidewalks, traffic signals, and public parking facilities, including ownership of more than 62 percent of all highways on the Federal-Aid Highway System in urbanized areas of the nation; and

WHEREAS, such state allocation practices governing the use of federal transportation resources have occurred while cities and other local governments have been raising their highway investment levels well beyond those of the federal government and state governments; and

WHEREAS, since 2000, cities and other local governments increased their new revenue commitments to highway investment by 47 percent, as compared to the federal government at 38 percent and all state governments at 23 percent; and

WHEREAS, actions and practices by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Federal Transit Administration(FTA) also have made it more difficult for mayors and other local leaders to utilize federal transportation resources in meeting their local and regional priorities; and

WHEREAS, existing federal rules and policies administered by the FHWA and FTA often have prevented local decision-makers from incorporating future transit commitments into federally-supported transportation improvement programs, a prerequisite for future federal funding, or from securing needed FTA approvals to gain access to federal discretionary funds for new transit investments, while such rules generally are not applicable to new state highway capacity projects; and

WHEREAS, FHWA oversight of state transportation programs, where most federal surface transportation resources are directed, has been limited, even as the financial capacity of many programs declines due to unconstrained capital programs, rising new construction, rehabilitation and maintenance costs, escalating transportation debt burdens and declining state transportation revenue commitments; and

WHEREAS, as one example, state governments since 2000 have increased state highway program debt by 57 percent -- more than two and one-half times highway revenue growth during the same period -- exclusive of other future liabilities (e.g., Advance Construction, TIFIA loans) incurred under FHWA programs where future federal transportation resources to the states are encumbered; and

WHEREAS, after nearly three years, the FHWA has yet to comply with SAFETEA-LU provisions requiring the agency to provide more transparency on how states are allocating federal transportation dollars, a directive intended to inform local officials and the public on how federal transportation resources are being allocated within each state by local area, program category, and type of investment; and

WHEREAS, federal transportation funding allocations are based on a formula that rewards increased vehicle miles traveled (VMT), thereby encouraging more spending on roads than on transit and travel demand reductions, increasing greenhouse gas emissions, limiting transportation choices, continuing petroleum dependence, and promoting expenditures on inefficient infrastructure development; and

WHEREAS, there is a clear national need to ensure balanced investment of available federal resources that supports all users of the transportation network and increases people-trip carrying capacity and mobility, including transit, bicycling, walking, and travel demand management, as well as highway and street improvements, and provides incentives for development patterns, including transit-oriented development, that help to reduce energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and demand for capital expenditures that serve solo driving; and

WHEREAS, after lengthy review and deliberations, the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Commission released its report recommendations in January 2008, calling for significant reforms to the current federal surface transportation policy framework before the President and Congress commit new federal revenues to surface transportation needs, including accountability and performance measures; and

WHEREAS, the Commission’s recommendations identified numerous shortcomings in the existing federal policy framework, urging reforms and other changes to ensure that metropolitan mobility needs are addressed through a new Metropolitan Mobility Program, existing transportation assets are kept in a state of good repair, intercity passenger, freight rail and other freight needs are more fully incorporated into the federal program, and safety is made a national priority with performance metrics and other requirements, among other proposals; and

WHEREAS, cities and other local governments in the nation’s many metropolitan areas already account for a substantial proportion of U.S. economic growth, and are projected to capture an even larger share of the nation’s future population and economic growth; and

WHEREAS, continued growth in these metropolitan economies will depend upon increasing commitments to transportation infrastructure and investment decisions that address the nation’s energy and climate goals, with local elected officials in their local areas and regions best positioned to decide these priorities,

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that The U.S. Conference of Mayors concurs with the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Commission’s recommendation that Congress and the President should provide additional revenues in support of the nation’s surface transportation needs but only when necessary program reforms are incorporated into successor legislation to SAFETEA-LU; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that that The U.S. Conference of Mayors calls on Congress to develop and implement a comprehensive, forward-looking federal vision for the nation’s overall transportation policy to which tangible investment outcomes must be tied, as well as expanded data collection and transparency, in order to enable evidence-based decisions and greater accountability focused on improving economic productivity, the environment, and the range of transportation choices that allow personal mobility to access economic and social opportunities;and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that federal transportation policy and program decisions should reflect greater modal neutrality focused on achieving substantive outcomes, with more equivalent treatment in the assessment of both highway and transit capacity projects by applying comparable criteria and mechanisms, such as investment studies that apply cost-benefit analyses and disclosure of long-term financial requirements, as well as lesser disparity in typical federal match by mode to reduce distortion of local decisions; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the U.S. Conference of Mayors supports efforts to incorporate a Metropolitan Mobility Program, consistent with the recommendation of the National Commission, anew initiative that fully empowers local elected officials in metropolitan areas to allocate available resources and make project selection decisions among all surface transportation modes, with the share of federal transportation resources to states and/or within states calibrated to the economic output of these metropolitan areas; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that federal transportation funding decisions should place priority on local and state projects that reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions when utilizing available federal transportation resources, especially when investing in new system capacity, including proper weighting for the value of stimulating efficient, high-density transit-oriented development and its environmental benefits; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that current federal formula for apportioning funding among the states should be modified to ensure that it does not provide incentives for greater consumption versus conservation; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that in addition to user fees, Congress should consider other transportation financing strategies including how the federal government might reward greater state investment, modal neutrality in use of state transportation funds, and the potential value of federal capital budgeting approaches in infrastructure programs, creation of national bond funds, and other proposals, consistent with these reforms; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that public-private partnerships that support transportation priorities, including use of congestion pricing and variable tolling, also should be considered as potentially valuable tools in addressing congestion, travel demand management, and infrastructure investment needs, depending on local circumstances, but should be viewed in a holistic context and not simply for a financing objective; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that reforms should consider other incentives for a range of market-based demand management strategies such as commuter choice, car sharing, feebate programs, location-efficiency, parking cash-out, and pay-as-youdrive (PAYD) auto insurance programs; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that other important reforms should include requiring maintenance of existing transportation assets in a state of good repair, standardizing of federal rules governing all new surface capacity investments (i.e., highways, transit, port connections, freight facilities and intercity rail), mainstreaming of planning and funding eligibilities for intercity passenger and freight rail projects, and applying new performance requirements to measure how program resources are being used, such as reductions in fatalities and injuries, household transportation expenditures, maintenance liabilities, congestion, unhealthy air quality, energy use, and greenhouse gas emissions.