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C O M M I T T E E F I N D I N G S A N D R E C O M M E N D AT I O N S 3 interplay with finance to provide the public with the tools. To date, the primary focus of innovative finance information required to judge overall performance best. initiatives has been on new construction. · Budget cuts and personnel caps, along with key · Accompanying these shifts in focus is a heightened members of the transportation workforce reaching emphasis on the need for training, education, and con- retirement age, are depleting state DOT workforces. tinued information exchange on the application of the This reduction in in-house expertise is occurring at the full range of available finance techniques and assess- same time that potential reductions in federal assistance ment of their appropriateness to specific situations. require transportation agencies to spend smarter to This assessment includes consideration of who will bear continue improving services. the costs associated with the various approaches. Costs · These staff reductions, achieved substantially to be considered include the social, fiscal, economic, through early retirement programs, are accelerating a and environmental costs as well as the associated risks shift in the senior management of state DOTs. One posi- of employing alternative financing approaches. tive aspect of this change has been a shift in organiza- tional culture toward management of transportation assets as an integrated system and application of newer RECOMMENDATIONS CONCERNING management disciplines to this end. Continuation of POLICY-RELATED ISSUES these trends is an important factor in cultivating expanded openness to alternative approaches and reap- The conference committee developed a set of recom- ing the maximum benefit from the transportation system. mendations focused on policy-related issues, some · Many observers feel that budgetary firewalls, fund- entailing possible legislative and administrative changes. ing guarantees, and related policies such as the revenue- Following is a summary of these recommendations. aligned budget authority (RABA) in TEA-21, which strive to ensure that all transportation funding sources are used on transportation investments, have collectively General worked well. · In the near term, identify ways to use alternative funding sources to begin to lessen the reliance on fuel tax Possible New Directions revenues. Such approaches could focus on application of the beneficiary-pay principle and broader definition of Following is a set of possible new directions that were dis- beneficiaries than in current user-pay approaches, as well cussed at the conference and that inform the committee's as on generating funding from existing transportation recommendations offered later in this section. assets and injecting the discipline of equity investing on the part of the public sector. · Many participants noted that an important oppor- · To begin addressing longer-term needs, explore tunity exists to apply concepts of traditional public options to address the shifting challenges for trans- finance to the funding challenge and thus to move portation funding and to identify alternatives to fuel beyond the application of what they view as an inade- taxes as well as financial tools needed to deploy new quate and incomplete user-pay approach to incorporate a funding approaches over the long term. broader beneficiary-pay principle. Some also noted that · Encourage transportation stakeholders to seek the transportation community, policy makers, and the more flexibility in making use of available finance tools. public could benefit by gaining a better understanding of Such broad support will likely be critical in achieving the social and distributional implications of the various expanded eligibilities and new finance tools. tax choices as well as how best to capture the value of the existing system to generate funding. Concern was raised about the increasing reliance on sales tax mechanisms Legislative that are generally regressive and that incorporate neither a user-pay nor a direct beneficiary-pay approach. · Consider alternative funding mechanisms. A variety · The focus is shifting from developing new financ- of options were discussed at the conference. Following are ing techniques to addressing how best to apply these some potential alternative funding mechanisms and techniques in the most appropriate ways and in securing adjustments to existing mechanisms considered: refinements to enhance their role in meeting transporta- Indexing the gas tax to maintain its purchasing tion investment challenges and ultimately improving the power. nation's quality of life. An incipient parallel shift is Addressing the problem of fuel tax evasion. requiring the inclusion of rehabilitation and preserva- Facilitating private-sector investment in surface tion needs in the development of any new financing transportation infrastructure.