March 27, 2014

State and Local Perspectives on Transportation

Good morning Madame Chairman, Ranking Member Vitter, members of the committee and our panel of witnesses. Thank you for holding today’s hearing the committee the opportunity to hear local perspectives on how well our federal surface transportation programs are working for them.  

 

It’s only been a couple years since MAP-21 was enacted. Much of the policy reforms put in place by MAP-21 have yet to be fully realized and, while still others are being implemented.

 

One program that I am very proud to hear that is working well for many communities across the country are the reforms we made in the Transportation Alternatives Program – formally known as Transportation Enhancements.

 

I am very much looking forward to hearing from Mayor Greg Ballard. His efforts to reinvigorate Indianapolis through investments in Greenways, the development of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail and other alternative modes of transportation are transforming Indianapolis. He has a great understanding of what businesses of tomorrow’s economy, as well as the young high skilled workforce that power these new companies, are looking for in the towns they cities they are locating to.

 

Transportation design that is multi-modal and is focused on community livability is essential to ensuring the global competitiveness of American business. Exciting things that are happening around Indianapolis and across this country with locally focused transportation alternatives projects in the city are improving the livability and the economy.

 

I also understand that Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett has made investments in transit and transportation alternatives priorities for improving transportation in his city as well.  

 

In 2011 when this committee began in earnest its work on MAP-21, one of the greatest debates in the bill was over a program that consisted of roughly 1.5% of the total funds of our federal surface transportation program.

 

I, along with many of my colleagues on this committee, and with tremendous leadership from my friend Sen. Cochran of Mississippi, we stuck up for this little program. Our familiarity with the TE program, now called Transportation Alternative Program or TAP, came from hearing success stories about specific TAP projects in communities around our states.

 

The Program is very personal for me and it goes back to my House days. Through the TE program I was able to help build Gwynn Falls Trail in Baltimore. Gwynn Falls is a 15 mile trail that runs from the inner suburbs of southwest Baltimore to heart of downtown Baltimore right passed Camden Yards and Ravens stadium and the inner harbor.

 

The trail is a continuous recreational corridor and viable commuter route connecting more than 30 neighborhoods with parklands, unique urban environmental features, cultural resources and historic landmarks. 

 

The trail has fostered a greater sense of community pride among the neighborhoods connecting to the trail. I have received thanks from local businesses big and small for the development of this trail because it has had positive impact on economic growth in the city.

 

Getting more people walking and biking provides the benefits of reduced traffic congestion, improved air quality, and contributes to a healthier lifestyle.

 

My experience in helping build the Gwynn Falls Trail is something that I imagine Mayor Ballard can relate to having built the Indianapolis Cultural Trail in his city.

 

Gwynn Falls and many other projects like it in Maryland that are providing measurable economic, environmental, public health and safety benefits at the local level. It is the local benefits that TAP projects provide that motivated me to champion this program.

 

A critical component of the effort that Sen. Cochran and I led was to initiate a process, run at the state level, to ensure that local transportation authorities and MPOs (Metropolitan Planning Organizations) have guaranteed access to TAP funds. The anecdotal information I’ve been receiving from the NGOs tracking how TAP dollars are being spent is that counties and cities across the country are taking full advantage of this program and are able to pursue important local transportation projects that improve community livability and local economies, as well improve the climate for small business growth and smart residential development.

 

Most importantly, these decisions are been driven by local planners and local leaders who often know far better what the transportation needs of their community are than their State DOTs.

 

I have some improvements that I would like to make to this program to ensure that it works even better for local communities:

 

  • Initiate a reporting requirement on the demand and projects implemented through the program.
  • Improve the specific suballocation dedicated to local and MPO decision makers.
  • Clarify the review process for TAP projects; and
  • Ensure communities can adequately plan and budget for future TAP projects ; among others

 

Local communities around the country both big and small receive extraordinary public benefit from TAP projects.