every year? Other states that are in a growth patternare looking at large, multi-year expansion projects. Ithink it is more of an uncertainty for them than someof the states that are more in a x-it-rst mode likeRhode Island.”One byproduct of the uncertainty about federaltransportation funding may be that states are now tak-ing a proactive approach to meeting their own transpor-tation needs, according to Kirk Steudle, director of theMichigan Department of Transportation.“The fact of the matter is we really don’t thinkWashington is going to deal with this problem,”he said. “We don’t see them coming up with moremoney in the future. We don’t think that they havethe ability to do that. We’ve said that we’re taking ourfuture into our own hands and we’re going to addressour infrastructure problems right here at home. AndI think you’re seeing more and more states do that.You’re seeing a lot of states looking at sales tax, gastax, a whole variety of things.”
Program Restructuring Brings GreaterFlexibility for States
MAP-21 restructured core highway formula pro-grams, created new ones and eliminated a long list of discretionary programs. Most projects that previouslyt into those discretionary programs are now eligibleunder other programs.“I think the shrinking or the elimination of a lotof very distinct and controlled programs into fewernumbers gives us good exibility,” said Hammond.“It’s denitely confusing to learn a whole new setof terminology, but we in our state have had a veryinclusive process with our cities and counties and(metropolitan planning organizations) on how wewill split up and share the federal money wherethere’s discretion (allowed). … We looked at someof these programs … and talked a lot about whatwe wanted as a state and how we would make thedecisions and who would make the decisions abouthow some of this spending happens (and) we reacheda good conclusion. We’re comfortable with that as agroup of transportation agencies and we’re ready tomove forward with this new program structure.”Schroer believes the restructuring is a signicantimprovement.“Last year, we got funded in 100 different fundcodes and that’s ridiculous,” he said. “We designedour program to t within codes so that we didn’tleave any dollars on the table. The last thing that wewant to do as a state is to leave any federal dollars inWashington. … I like the fact that it’s more stream-lined and it’s more exible and that we don’t haveto spend quite as much time trying to channel ourobjectives to t certain fund codes.”But Rhode Island’s Lewis noted that the elimina-tion of a set-aside program called TransportationEnhancements, which funded numerous bike andpedestrian facilities, among other things, around thecountry, wasn’t popular in all circles.“Some of the advocates of nontraditional trans-portation feel like maybe they were left out,” he said.“We don’t see it that way because I think we havethe exibility to include those projects under the(new Transportation Alternatives) program. … ButI think it gives us some greater tools as a state to goback to the advocates of those kinds of projects andsay, ‘Listen, (in) a state like Rhode Island that has agreater than 20 percent structurally decient bridgecount, we’ve really got to think about where we putthe money that comes to the state that has the great-est effect on the overall economy of the state.’“So I think it gives us some tools to make good de-cisions without excluding any interests or any parties.… Generally people understand if you don’t haveyour bridges in good shape, bike paths are difcult toget to.”Count Michigan’s Steudle as someone whobelieves the transition to the Transportation Alterna-tives program could create challenges for some states.Under MAP-21, states are required to sub-allocate50 percent of their funding under the program tometropolitan planning organizations.“We have turned that (portion) over to (the met-ropolitan planning organizations) and a number of them have come back and said, ‘We like the programthat you have set up that already has a competitiveprocess to it. We’d like you to just continue to dothat for us,’” said Steudle. “So I think implementingsome of those things where there are changing roles(is) going to be a bit of challenge because every timethere’s a process change, people have to get adjustedto a new process and a new way of doing business.”
Environmental Streamlining & AcceleratingProject Delivery
Congress also incorporated into MAP-21 a seriesof provisions designed to accelerate transportationproject delivery and to streamline environmentalreview processes, which some believe have becomemajor contributors to project delays.According to a 2011 Congressional Research Ser-vice report, major highway projects can take 10 to 15years to plan and build.
MAP-21 seeks to accelerateprojects in a number of ways—allowing more phasesof a project to run concurrently, encouraging earliercollaboration among state and federal agencies,reducing and consolidating paperwork and bureau-cratic requirements, and establishing new deadlinesand penalties for delays in permitting processes.The legislation seeks to streamline the environ-mental review process required under the 1970 Na-tional Environmental Policy Act, which put in placean interdisciplinary, environmental impact-focusedapproach to project planning and decision-makingfor projects that receive federal funding.
MAP-21 restructured core highwayformula programs, created new ones andeliminated a long list of discretionaryprograms.