Increased capacity, transit expansion are compatible goals

John Horsley
AASHTO Executive Director

In Utah – when the new 14-mile Legacy Parkway north of Salt Lake City opened in late 2008, motorists saw their commute drop from an average of 44 minutes to 14 minutes.

In Maryland and Virginia – expansion of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge from 6 to 12 lanes to relieve a major Interstate system bottleneck is saving drivers and truckers and average of 40 minutes a day.

Expanding the ability of the transportation system to meet the needs of the traveling public is critical to the health of our economy and the quality of life of our citizens. Meeting future needs will require a balanced approach, which preserves what has been built to date, improves system performance and adds substantial capacity in highways, transit, freight rail and intercity passenger rail.

Some advocacy groups, however, want to take the country down a different path. They want to limit new highway capacity, and shift resources away from highways to transit and intercity passenger rail. And they want to see this approach imposed on states from the national level.

We disagree.

Does AASHTO support investing more in transit? Absolutely. States today actually invest more in transit than does the federal government. In 2007, states spent $13.3 billion on transit, compared to federal funding of $10.7 billion. AASHTO supports doubling of transit ridership by 2030 and increasing federal transit funding by 89 percent.

Does AASHTO support investing more in intercity passenger rail? Of course. State departments of transportation have called for investing $50 billion during the next six years to expand intercity passenger rail service.

But transit and intercity passenger rail investments alone cannot begin to meet the nation’s transportation needs. A more balanced approach is needed that recognizes how Americans choose to travel.

Today 95 percent of passenger travel in America is made by car, motorcycle and truck, and 93 percent of freight by value moves on our highways. Expanding highway capacity is not the only thing that will be required to meet future mobility needs, but it will be a principal part of what will be required.

Published 8-27-2010