October 9, 2009
SEMCOG and other transportation groups have been advocating for additional transportation dollars at both the state and federal levels for some time now. We have advocated for additional funding based on the impact it would have on improving pavements and bridges, decreasing congestion, putting people to work, improving the safety of our system, etc. I don’t think any of these arguments is working – in fact I know they are not.
Last week, both the federal and state governments had the chance to increase transportation funding to address needed deficiencies in our road and transit systems. Not only did they not increase funding – they actually decreased transportation funding!
At the federal level, Congress did not reauthorize SAFETEA-LU, the federal transportation legislation. Instead, they chose to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) which funds all government agencies for one month, from October 1 through October 31, at pro-rated fiscal year 2009 levels until the fiscal year 2010 appropriations bills can be completed. They also did not agree on the appropriate mechanism to address the rescission, which I have previously written about. As a result, the rescission went into effect and Michigan lost approximately $260 million in federal funds.
At the state level, the legislature cut over $9 million out of the Comprehensive Transportation Fund (CTF) and $12 million from the Transportation Economic Development Fund (TEDF). The dollars went into the general fund.
We have been asking for more – and getting less. This tells me that we need to seriously consider reviewing and revising our approach. It tells me that we are a long way from seeing increased funding for needed transportation improvements. So what do we do now?
Well, we keep making the case for additional funding – that doesn’t change. Direction2035 indicates that we are only going to have half the funding we need to fix all our deficiencies. We also need to continue to prioritize the dollars we have so they are spent on the most important projects and continue to do all the small things that we can to keep the system safe and operational. But at the same time, we can’t sugarcoat the outcomes any more. We have to manage expectations – expectations that keep some people believing that things will get better with no additional dollars – they won’t. Roads won’t get fixed, busses will come later and later, grass won’t get cut and snow may not get plowed until it gets higher and higher. Get used to it – it’s going to happen!