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US Needs Vision As Compelling As Interstate Highway Act

T4America Director James Corless tells Senate Commerce panel US needs clear transportation objectives and performance measures

Transportation for America Director James Corless testified before the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation today (April 28), saying the US needs a cohesive national transportation policy with clear objectives and performance measures to gauge progress. He said these measures should include reducing driving by 16 percent in 20 years, and tripling walking, biking and transit use. Reconnecting America co-chairs the “T4America” campaign, which is working with Congress on reauthorizing the six-year federal transportation bill that provides hundreds of billions of dollars for transportation projects. The coalition has grown to include 250 organizations ranging from AARP to the National Association of Realtors, and 18,000 individuals and elected officials.

Corless told the committee that without a compelling new vision that’s as bold and transformative as the Interstate Highway Act of 1956 we cannot adequately address the challenges we face, which include:

  • A dependency on petroleum that threatens our national security, drains household budgets, exacerbates climate change, undermines public health and imperils the US economy;

  • A haphazard, inefficient relationship between our transportation systems and land development patterns;

  • A backlog of crumbling, unsafe and obsolete transportation facilities;

  • An outmoded freight transportation system that is overcapacity and incapable of efficiently linking the US economy to the global economy; and

  • A transportation system that provides few options for aging Americans, low-income families and others who are unable or can’t afford to drive.

Addressing these problems requires a set of objectives for the new system, which should include improving economic competitiveness, conditions and connectivity; safety and public health outcomes; energy conservation and security; environmental protection and climate stability; and equitable access. He advocated the following performance measures, as goals to be reached in the next 20 years:

  • Increase the share of surface transportation facilities in a state of good repair by 20 percent;

  • Reduce traffic crashes by 50 percent;

  • Reduce per capita vehicle miles by 16 percent;

  • Triple walking, biking, public transportation and passenger rail use;

  • Reduce transportation-generated CO2 levels by 40 percent;

  • Reduce vehicle delay per capita by 10 percent;

  • Increase the share of freight carried on rail by 20 percent;

  • Achieve zero population exposure to at-risk levels of air pollution;

  • Reduce household expenditures on housing and transportation by 10 percent;

  • Increase by 50 percent the essential destinations accessible within 30 minutes by public transportation or a 15-minute walk for low-income, senior and disanbled populations.