Following the inauguration of the Biden-Harris administration, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials released a list of 2021 policy priorities to guide its efforts in support of a broad swath of transportation infrastructure strategies and investments.
To that end, AASHTO highlighted two sets of key priorities it plans to pursue in 2021.
The first set of priorities centers on the need for additional COVID-19 relief aid as part of a larger infrastructure investment package that would help spur economic recovery for the nation:
- View investments in highway and transit projects as a “critical component” of any federal economic recovery package, with benefits going well beyond the creation of short-term construction jobs. AASHTO said such benefits include providing American families will easier access to jobs as well as lower-priced goods as highway and transit projects help businesses better manage inventories and move goods more cheaply, while getting employees reliably to work.
- During the COVID-19 pandemic, a majority of states classified the transportation industry and its workers as “essential” – a designation “demonstrating the important role” of state departments of transportation in sustaining jobs, including within the private sector, noted the group.
- To amplify the ability of state DOTs to fulfill that important economic recovery role, infrastructure investment funds should be provided through existing highway and transit distribution formulas, as those formulas “provide economic recovery funding in the quickest, most efficient manner,” AASHTO emphasized.
- Finally, the organization said it is important not to attach “unrealistic timelines” related to the obligation of economic recovery funding, nor should such funding come with additional federal requirements that delay obligation and expenditure of funds. Instead, the focus should be on programs and projects that generate the most benefits through the entire lifecycle of the asset, rather than mandating short spending deadlines that lead to less efficient use of taxpayer dollars due to the inability of transportation project sponsors to address longer-term needs.
AASHTO’s second set of 2021 priorities focus on the timely reauthorization of a long-term surface transportation-funding bill to “prevent unnecessary program disruptions and delays in safety and mobility benefits to states and communities.” Those priorities include:
- Enacting a long-term, sustainable revenue solution to the Highway Trust Fund to provide multi-year federal funding stability to support state transportation investment needs.
- Increasing flexibility, reducing program burdens, and improving project delivery to speed up the benefits of transportation investments while protecting the environment and lowering project costs.
- Supporting and ensuring the ability of state DOTs to harness innovation and technology to achieve a safer and more resilient, efficient, and secure surface transportation system.