Improving Accountability and Performance in the Transportation Sector
Transportation finance is too important and involves too much of the taxpayers’ money — $300 billion over the last ten years at the federal level alone — to suffer as it does from the numerous accounting loopholes and financial complexities. The following recommendations would go a long way toward improving the effectiveness of federal transportation spending, giving taxpayers a bigger bang for their buck while building more accountability, transparency and performance requirements into a system that desperately needs them.
Require Clearer Goals and Reward Performance:
Require goals and performance measures for all transportation agencies that
use federal transportation funds. Agencies must demonstrate progress towards
meeting goals in annual reports made available to the public.
Reward states and
metropolitan planning organizations that show significant progress and effort
towards meeting their stated goals with financial incentives including higher
federal match for projects.
(2) Fix Accounting Loopholes in the
Current TEA-21 law:
The new federal transportation law should match apportionments with obligation
limits each year – or assign obligation limits to specific programs – in
order to close the loophole that allows overspending in some categories and
underspending in others.
Require demonstration of meeting crucial program
goals before allowing transfer of funds out of key road and bridge repair,
traffic safety and air quality programs for other purposes.
Build more Transparency into Transportation Finance:
Publish annual federal transportation spending information, including program
and project type information.
Require states to publish annual state and local
transportation spending including program and project level information.
Publish annual declarations for intended use of federal transportation funds.
Publish financial audits of transportation agencies at least once every three
years including rigorous analysis of the use of innovative finance tools like
Build better partnerships with local government officials and public interest
groups by better advertising the availability of transportation funds.
Remove Regulatory Barriers That
Discourage Repair, Maintenance and Operation of Transportation Facilities:
Allow federal transportation funds to be used for routine repair of local
roads, streets, sidewalks and trails.
Allow federal transportation funds to be used for the operations of mass
transit and paratransit systems, and for intercity rail operations including
Require “Fix-it-First” Provisions
for Roads and Bridges Similar to Rules that Currently Exist for Mass Transit
Require strong “Fix it First” policies and incentives in federal highway
programs that ensure new highway investments are made in a fiscally
responsible manner and will be protected, repaired and maintained in future
Require “smart investment” provisions for federal highway funding that
reward commitment to restricting growth around highway facilities to more
cost-effectively preserve road capacity and curb unplanned development.
Transportation Dollars Beyond State Agencies to Local Governments: