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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

APTA, AASHTO leaders outline legislative and strategic priorities

The American Public Transportation Association's (APTA) board recently set several strategic priorities for the next two years.

The priorities address federal legislation, long-term funding of transportation and workforce development, APTA Chairwoman Flora Castillo said in a letter sent to APTA members.

Specifically, the association plans to focus on:

• preparing for the next surface transportation authorization to ensure there is a federal role in public transportation and that the next bill provides a stable, predictable and growing funding mechanism for public transportation;

• shaping long-term funding so APTA is an "assertive force for long-term funding and financing solutions," said Castillo;

• strengthening APTA's advocacy to guide the association in developing more and broader support for public transportation;

• investing in and developing human capital to guide APTA's work on skill development and workforce training, succession planning and attracting the next generation of public transportation professionals;

• building on existing and emerging business models to ensure APTA is a source of information on changing market structures, and alternative service and capital project delivery structures; and

• continuing implementation and monitoring of APTA's five-year strategic plan, which the board adopted in 2010.

Meanwhile, John Horsley, the retiring executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), has called on Congress to help stimulate the economy by investing in transportation infrastructure, and pass tax reform that will support highway and transit programs.

Congress should pass a bill that would authorize the $50 billion Transportation Regional Infrastructure Project (TRIP) bond program, through which each state would receive $1 billion over six years for transportation, said Horsley in a speech delivered Wednesday to attendees of the Transportation Research Board's annual Chairman's Luncheon.

Co-sponsored by U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.), the bill would be paid through U.S. customs fees.

"This program would create thousands of jobs, stimulate economic recovery and improve mobility in every state," said Horsley in a prepared statement issued after his speech.

Horsley also called on federal lawmakers to convert the cents-per-gallon federal tax on fuels to a sales tax on fuels to shore up the federal Highway Trust Fund, which helps pay for federal highway and transit programs.

Under his proposal, sales tax rates on fuels would be set a level that would restore the fund, which currently spends $15 billion more than the revenue it receives, AASHTO officials said. Changing the per-gallon tax to a sales tax on fuels would support spending on highways and transit at $350 billion over the next six years.

"Fully supporting the program through highway user fees, rather than through transfers from the U.S. Treasury, would reduce the federal deficit by $150 billion over 10 years," Horsley said. "The cost of the reform to taxpayers would be less than $1 per week, per vehicle."

AASHTO officials are working with the Americans for Transportation Mobility Coalition led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to develop bipartisan support for the proposal, AASHTO officials said.

Horsley will retire Feb. 1 after leading AASHTO for 14 years.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 1/17/2013