Utah League of Cities and Towns

Making Life BETTER

Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R) – Transportation Authorization Bill

In late June both the House and Senate approved a two-year transportation authorization bill (HR 4348), which will fund federal surface transportation programs at current levels through September 2014. Please provide a brief analysis of how the transportation authorization bill will impact local governments.

After ten SAFETEA-LU extensions, Congress finally approved a 27-month transportation reauthorization, HR 4348, that covers the last three months of FY 2012 and all of FY 2013 and FY 2014. This new authorization, named Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), benefits state and local governments in Utah, contains no tax increases, and is an improvement over previous transportation authorizations. Funding levels for MAP-21 are almost $53 billion per year and include a slight adjustment for inflation over previous years? funding. MAP-21 continues the 80-20 split between highway and transit funding and relies on $18.8 billion in general fund transfers over two years.

Utah will receive $312 million and $315 million in apportioned highway funds for FY2013 and FY2014. Utah will receive $55 million and $64 million for mass transit formula funding.

MAP-21 increases flexibility for states and gives states more control over how transportation dollars are spent. According to Transportation Weekly, almost 93% of federal highway spending will be apportioned by formula, up from 83% under SAFETEA-LU while the amount that is earmarked by Congress or allocated by USDOT decreases from 17% to 7.4%. MAP-21 also takes over 100 highway programs and consolidates or eliminates about two-thirds of these programs.

State flexibility is important because transportation needs vary greatly from state to state. Some states, like Utah and other western states, have experienced tremendous population growth and anticipate significant population growth in future years. This growth increases the need for additional transportation infrastructure. Some states, especially in the northeast, have not experienced much growth and do not expect significant growth in the future. However, these states have infrastructure that is old and needs to be replaced. Western states also have some old infrastructure, but the situation is more pronounced in other parts of the country. These differences explain why more transportation decisions need to occur at the state and local level.

MAP-21 also streamlines the environmental review process. MAP-21 exempts smaller projects from NEPA reviews, reduces review for projects within the right of way, and reduces the amount of time environmental activists can legally challenge projects.

The transportation reauthorization expires at the end of FY2014 so Congress will have to begin work on the next authorization very soon. Congress will have to address at least three major revenue issues. First, should transportation funding continue to rely on general fund dollars? Second, should mass transit be funded with gas tax dollars or general fund dollars? Third, can transportation continue to be funded on gas taxes or should an alternative revenue source be implemented such as user fees based on vehicle miles traveled?