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New federal transportation law–A missed opportunity

07/19/2012

By Barb Thoman, Executive Director

In July, President Obama signed a new transportation law: MAP-21. The new law ran 600-pages and is effective for 27-months (significantly less time than previous transportation laws). Transit for Livable Communities and advocates for transportation reform across the US were disappointed that many of the forward-thinking provisions in the Senate bill were traded away in conference committee.

We greatly appreciate the phone calls and letters from our members over the past two years which were key to defeating some terrible proposals advanced by the US House—proposals to make funding for transit less secure and to eliminate bicycle and pedestrian projects from funding eligibility.

The bill that emerged from the House and Senate conference committee did not include House demands for approval of the Canadian-backed oil pipeline (Keystone XL) or a prohibition of the regulation of toxic coal ash. But traded away were provisions to ensure a “state of good repair” on US roads and bridges, provisions to improve freight rail, a portion of the dedicated funding for bicycling and walking, and other elements key to improved safety, accountability, and expanded transportation options.  

Click here for TLC’s statement on the new law and here for Transportation for America’s recap of the top 10 things to know about the new law. On behalf of Transit for Livable Communities and our members, I sit on the executive committee of Transportation for America (T4A), a national coalition working for a healthy transportation system that is ready for the rapidly changing economy of the 21st century. 

As you read my statement and the T4A blog, here is some background to keep in mind about the role federal funding plays for transportation in Minnesota. 

Minnesota, as with all states, receives federal transportation revenue in proportion to its estimated share of gas taxes paid, plus a subsidy from general revenues. Minnesota’s annual federal support is approximately $700 million.

The majority of federal transportation funding falls under the jurisdiction of state departments of transportation (DOT) but a portion is allocated directly to metro regions. In Minnesota, that includes the Metropolitan Council and seven planning areas in Greater Minnesota.

Federal funding is particularly important in Minnesota because the majority of state revenue for transportation—approximately $1.7 billion annually—is dedicated in Minnesota’s constitution to “highway purposes.”  Federal transportation funding supports a wider range of transportation projects for Minnesotans, from road and bridge construction and maintenance to new rail projects, bus operations and maintenance, bicycle and pedestrian projects and safety efforts.  

Transit-Collage-Multimodal2_WEB
Federal funding facilitates a wide range of transportation projects in Minnesota.

 

In 2012, federal transportation revenue is contributing to the construction of nearly 100 separate projects in the metro area (plus at least 100 projects in Greater Minnesota), including Central Corridor LRT, the Mississippi River Regional Trail in Spring Lake Park and Rosemount, the widening of Highway 10 in Anoka County, and replacement of the Lafayette Bridge over the Mississippi River in Saint Paul.

At TLC, with your help, we will continue to build the movement to support multimodal transportation investments, in our state and at the federal level. Given that MAP-21 is only a 27-month law, the work begins now for a better transportation law next time. Join us!

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