Category Archives: Transportation

Transportation CO2 Surpasses Power Sector CO2: Good News or Bad?

co2-sources-since-1973Last week, DOE announced that transportation sector CO2 emissions in the US exceeded power sector CO2 emissions for the first time since 1978. Why?  The combination of increasing vehicle miles traveled in the transportation sector and the decreasing use of coal in the power sector is certainly most of the answer.

The real question is whether this is good news or bad news.… More

The Nation’s Transportation Future Is Increasingly Local

This post originally appeared in Law360. Reprinted with permission.

traffic jams in the city, road, rush hourThere is no debate that the gridlock in Congress has impacted national transportation policy. It was good news in December of 2015 when, after 36 short-term extensions, Congress passed and President Obama signed into law the “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act” (or, the FAST Act, Public Law 114-94). The law contains some changes in federal law that will drive policy,… More

Value Capture – The Beginning of the State-Local Transportation Match

Next week, Governor Baker’s economic development bill will begin to emerge from the Legislature now that versions of his original bill have  passed both branches of the legislature and are headed for a conference committee.  Those who follow transportation policy trends will be watching for the outcome of the value capture amendment, sponsored by Representative Bill Straus, Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation. … More

Big Changes With LIttle Fanfare: The FHWA Proposes to Use GHG Emissions as a Performance Measure

This week, the Federal Highway Administration issued a Noticed of Proposed Rulemaking to promulgate performance measures to be used in evaluating federal funding of transportation projects.  The requirement for performance measures stems from the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, aka MAP-21.  MAP-21 requires the FHWA to establish performance standards in 12 categories, one of which is “on-road mobile source emissions.”  MAP 21

The NPRM addresses this criterion,… More

Public Transportation Woes Are Not Just In Boston

Since last winter, whenever you say “snow” in Boston, people automatically think: will the MBTA shutdown? The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce recently hosted a particularly interesting forum on how other cities on the east coast are fixing their public transit systems.  Instead of the usual faces, the panel was made up of the top leadership of these  transit systems and, after just a few moments listening to the presentations,… More

The FAST Act Seeks to Streamline the Environmental Review of Infrastructure Projects

On December 4, 2015, President Obamaimage006_web signed into law the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act—a five-year, $305-billion transportation authorization and spending bill. The FAST Act largely focuses on funding highways and other transit infrastructure, but, interestingly, it also contains provisions overhauling the environmental review of infrastructure projects under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

For example, the FAST Act requires agencies to coordinate their environmental reviews of transportation projects to avoid duplication and accelerate the review process.… More

Massachusetts Transportation for 2015

As we turn the corner on 2014 and on eight years of the Patrick administration, transportation stakeholders in Massachusetts wonder what 2015 and beyond will bring five years after the creation of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.  In November, Massachusetts voters chose to repeal the portion of the Commonwealth’s 2013 Transportation Finance Law that indexed the Commonwealth’s motor fuel tax to inflation.  They also elected Charlie Baker our next Governor. … More

America’s Government Is Gridlocked. Its Roads Don’t Have To Be.

This summer, roadway construction season will not be interrupted after all, as Congress passed another “patch” to the Highway Trust Fund to take us up to May of 2015. But how do we expect the U.S. DOT to plan and implement a long-term infrastructure investment program for our nation with nine-month term funding authorizations, after which no funds can be spent without another act of Congress?  How can the states rely on the Federal government as partner and make commitments to address their multi-billion capital maintenance and investment needs with these short-term funding extensions and no long-term resolution or direction in sight?… More


As nearly every media outlet in America has reported, the Congress last night approved a $10.8 billion transportation bill that will pay for highway and transit projects for the next nine months.  It’s good news, sure.  In practical terms, it means that transportation funding will continue to flow past today’s deadline.  That matters to anyone interested in a project that is funded with Federal monies, and in Massachusetts,… More

Transportation Revenue for Massachusetts – A Reward for Ten Years of Reform

Labor Day weekend marks the end of what for some will be remembered as the summer that brought net new revenue to the Commonwealth’s transportation system.  Others see it as the logical end of the reform effort.  Still others will focus on the begining of a new phase of transportation debate – with the rivarlies and lack of funding put aside (for now), let’s discuss what gets fixed and what gets built and why.  … More

Will New Sales Taxes on Computer Services Boost Massachusetts Transportation Financing?

After months of debate, a veto, and an override, Massachusetts now has a blueprint for financing one of the largest overhauls of the state’s transportation infrastructure in decades.  The controversy over Chapter 46 wasn’t whether additional transportation financing was necessary – all sides agreed that it was.  The sticking point was instead a) how much, and b) from whom.

As our colleagues Nicola Lemay, Earl Mellott,… More

Lessons Learned: The ASCE Report Card and Smart Infrastructure Improvements in Massachusetts

Earlier this week, the American Society of Civil Engineers released its quadrennial Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, and the message for 2013 was undeniable: “Needs Improvement.”

The Report Card gave the nation’s infrastructure a D+ overall (although in a potential silver lining, ASCE did note that this was an improvement from the 2009 grade of a solid D).  ASCE estimates that the United States needs $3.6 trillion in infrastructure investments over the next seven years to bring its transportation,… More

All Politics is Local: Governor Patrick Files $19 Billion Transportation Bond Bill

On March 13, 2013, Governor Patrick filed his comprehensive transportation bond legislation, proposing $19 billion in investments over the next ten years.  This bond bill offers the first specific numbers for funding the policy proposals outlined in the MassDOT strategic plan released in January. 

In the bill, the Governor proposes $4.6 billion for highway maintenance and construction, $4.4 billion for regional rail,… More

Sequester Hits Federal Transportation Budget With a $1.9 Billion Cut

On March 1, 2013, every federal agency saw its funding for the current fiscal year take a significant hit, due to the budget mechanism known as the “sequester”.  Both Republicans and Democrats agree that the sequester is a blunt instrument, requiring across-the-board cuts of about 5% to the discretionary FY13 funding for almost all non-defense executive branch agencies — including the Department of Transportation (DOT).

Nevertheless,… More

The President’s Infrastructure Plan – When $50 Billion Doesn’t Go as Far as it Used To

On February 20, 2013, the President released his Plan to Make America a Magnet for Jobs by Investing in Infrastructure, which calls for adopting a “fix-it-first” approach to infrastructure expenditure.  The Plan recycles the President’s proposal from the American Jobs Act (first rolled out in September 2011, and again in December 2012 as part of the fiscal cliff negotiations) for a $50 billion investment in transportation infrastructure. … More

Governments Look to Alternative Sources of Revenue to Fund Transportation

Late last year, the Government Accounting Office issued a report indicating that road user fees could be a more equitable way to pay for our national surface transportation system.  The report’s findings were not surprising.  For years, economists have told us that our nation’s reliance on the gasoline tax as its primary (not its only) way to fund our surface transportation program was folly. … More

Toll Equity: Essential to the Transportation Funding Debate

In the race to embrace “open road” or “all-electronic” roadway tolling in Massachusetts, long overdue as it is, we must be sure to take a critical look at the assumptions for how and where we implement this 21st century technology.  Are we simply going to impose a new technology for collecting tolls on our 20th century highway tolling system?

Today, the only Bay State roadways where tolls are collected are the Mass Turnpike (I-90), … More

Your Ad Here: Digital Billboards and the Future of Outdoor Advertising

Outdoor advertising is big business — in 2011 alone, spending on outdoor advertising is estimated to have topped $6 billion.  Yet while few may recognize just how big a business it is today, even fewer recognize how big it might be in the future, as technology advances permit more sophisticated digital displays and more creative use of advertising space.  Recent news from Los Angeles (here and here) and Chicago (here and here) indicates that we may be about to find out.… More

A Close Look at Transportation Debt Shows Where the Money Goes

The Commonwealth’s transportation team continues with its tour to discuss the state’s transportation investment deficit.  Some reports put that deficit — measured as the difference between what is being spent today and what officials believe should be spent to bring the system into a state of good repair — at $1 billion.  Other reports have that number as greater than $1 billion.  Regardless, all of the professionals agree that the investment deficit is large and that new net revenues,… More

As Time for Consideration of Transportation Funding Nears, Massachusetts is Lucky to Have Constitutional Protections

Anyone paying any attention to transportation issues knows that a large percentage of states are seeking the resources necessary to maintain the systems they have, while simultaneously planning for the construction of the systems they seek — and we need — in the future.

For most states, this means a three-pronged strategy of cutting back, implementing reforms aimed at efficiency and cost reduction, and, when a gap remains,… More