Rep. Davis, Mayor Koos, Transportation for America Unveil Bill to Aid Local Transportation Projects
Innovation in Surface Transportation Act to create in-state grant program for local entities
Today at a press conference in Uptown Normal, U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Mayor of Normal Chris Koos, representatives from Transportation for America and other local stakeholders unveiled legislation that would give local communities in Illinois better access to federal transportation funds to invest in innovative projects that would boost local economies. Davis and U.S. Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) will introduce the bill in the House next week.
“Rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure is key to turning our economy around and creating good-paying jobs, and local municipalities, planning commissions and transit agencies must be a part of that process,” said Davis. “The Innovation in Surface Transportation Act is a commonsense, bipartisan bill to give local entities a stronger voice when it comes to funding local projects. Additionally, this bill recognizes our nation’s fiscal realities by giving preference to projects that strengthen the return on investment, encouraging public-private partnerships and increasing transparency so that every federal dollar spent goes a little bit further.”
"It is essential that our local communities have a seat at the table in making these critical decisions,” said Congresswoman Dina Titus (D-Nev.). “In Las Vegas, and cities across the country, our ability to move people and goods safely and efficiently is critical to all aspects of our economy. Empowering major businesses, travel and tourism authorities, and local entities as part of the process will ensure that projects reflect the economic development priorities in our communities.”
“Locally driven projects are essential to the future of transportation, infrastructure and our economy,” said Mayor Koos. “We understand our needs better than other agencies and know how to get the best use of federal dollars within an efficient time frame. We have established strong local public/private partnerships and work seamlessly together to create a community that fosters economic growth and increased quality of life.”
"As a former mayor who speaks frequently with local leaders around the country, I can say with confidence that they are more than willing to compete and be held accountable for results, but they need access to resources to meet their communities' needs," said Mayor John Robert Smith, chair of Transportation for America and former Mayor of Meridian, Mississippi. "This bill would take a major step toward restoring funding for local needs that was greatly restricted in the 2012 transportation bill, MAP-21. Rep. Davis's and Rep. Titus's measure will ensure that those closest to the heart-beat of a community will be making decisions on how transportation dollars should be spent, while promoting innovation and efficiency."
Currently, a vast majority of federal highway funds are given to the states to spend at their discretion. The input and ability of local governments to decide how to use those funds is limited. The Innovation in Surface Transportation Act would create an in-state grant program that would allow a percentage of those funds to be competitively bid-for by eligible local entities. This competition will ensure that the funds are used for the best projects that have the highest return on investment for local communities and the state. For example, for Fiscal Year 2014, the total amount that would be set-aside if this law was enacted for the in-state grant program in Illinois would be more than $218 million.
Eligible entities include:
• Local governments
• Regional transportation authorities
• Transit agencies
• Tribal governments
• Private providers of public transportation
• Non-profit transportation organizations
• Port authorities
Each state would be required to initiate the in-state competitive grant program within 30 days of the beginning of a fiscal year and create a selection panel consisting of no less than 11 individuals representing the following:
• State Department of Transportation
• Local governments
• Metropolitan planning organizations, councils of governments and other rural planning organizations
• Local Chambers of Commerce
• Air Quality Board or a local organization supporting improved air quality
• State Safety Board or a local organization supporting safety
• Transit agency
• Port authority
• Safe Routes to School or active transportation organization
• Public interest organizations
No fewer than three individuals representing local governments, state Departments of Transportation, and regional government entities can serve on the panel, and local governments must include at least one representative from each of:
• A jurisdiction with a population of 50,000 or fewer
• A jurisdiction with a population of more than 50,000 and not more than 1,00,000 individuals
• A jurisdiction with a population of more than 1,000,000 individuals
The legislation places great importance on transparency and reporting by the states. It requires the selection criteria, methodology, projects requested, projects selected, and ranking and scoring. In addition, it requires the states to submit a report to the U.S. Department of Transportation including the previously listed criteria as well as the organizations represented on the selection panel.