Oklahoma Department of Transportation Executive Director Mike Patterson told a House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee that while state DOTs are making progress implementing portions of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, Congress should honor the funding levels in that 2015 multi-year surface transportation bill and build on the FAST Act’s foundation in any new transportation infrastructure investment package.
Patterson testified before the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, during a hearing titled “FAST Act Implementation: State and Local Perspectives.”
Also testifying were Gary Thomas, president and executive director of Dallas Area Rapid Transit, and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.
“Moving forward we must develop a modern revenue model for funding our surface transportation investments,” said Patterson, who noted that the traditional motor fuel tax upon which the federal Highway Trust Fund depends need to evolve as transportation fuel and vehicle technologies create more fuel-efficient vehicles and gas-free options.
“Until that time it is imperative that the annual obligation authority in the FAST Act be honored, the structural cash-flow deficit in the Highway Trust Fund be resolved and the schedule of rescissions of contract authority be abolished,” he said.
Patterson also testified that new infrastructure funding proposals must include funding, not only financing or regulatory reform.”The reality remains that most transportation projects cannot generate adequate revenue to service debt or to provide the return on investment required by private sector equity owners,” Patterson testified.
Patterson’s comments echoed those of subcommittee ranking member Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C.) who, along with full committee ranking member Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao asking that any new infrastructure legislation include additional federal funding.
“I am concerned that the administration seems to be more enamored with pushing private capital and financing, which would end up making projects more expensive, than traditional funding mechanisms,” Holmes Norton said. “Nor can we streamline our way out of inadequate funding.”
Patterson assured the subcommittee that the FAST Act implementation is well under way, especially when it comes to streamlining project delivery.
“Thanks to the FAST Act, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation has been able to initiate the process of filing NEPA documents electronically which helps with expediting document flow, expand the use of federal resource agency liaisons to improve permitting and review processes, and expand the use of programmatic agreements to accelerate project delivery,” Patterson said in written testimony.
However, Patterson said that Congress should encourage the USDOT to adhere more closely to legislative intent when implementing provisions in both the 2012 MAP-21 and the FAST Act surface transportation bills. Patterson pointed specifically to a recent USDOT rule addressing coordination among metropolitan planning organizations.
“Although state DOTs and MPOs already exemplify the kinds of coordination sought, the new regulation added significant additional legal and administrative requirements that would serve as barriers to constructive and flexible approaches to planning and programming being implemented by states and MPOs today,” Patterson said. “The rule epitomized the one-size-fits-all approach that does not allow flexibility to tailor processes and solutions to the diverse needs, opportunities, and constraints faced by states and MPOs across the nation. Along with the Senate’s recent passage of companion legislation to repeal this rule, we appreciate your committee’s prompt action last week to bring this before the House floor.”
Patterson’s written testimony and video of the hearing are available here.