Infrastructure Roundtable Series: Innovative Financing for Transportation

October 4, 2011

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Paul Hanley responds to a question while Rob Puentes (left) and Ill. Sen. Heather Steans (center) listen.

Fifty-five years after President Eisenhower signed the first federal transportation bill into law, our nation is investing two percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on infrastructure, far less than the five percent of GDP Europe spends or China’s nine percent. Even worse, what we do spend is based on arbitrary formulas that isolate funding for road, highway, transit, rail, bike, and pedestrian projects rather than target investments based on their value.

Meanwhile, the outlook for transportation funding is grim. As consumers continue to choose fuel-efficient vehicles over gas guzzlers, less frequent trips to the pump will mean even fewer dollars going into the nation’s bankrupt Highway Trust Fund. Here in Illinois, the state capital bill, Illinois Jobs Now!, stands in revenue limbo: More than 50 communities have “opted out” of video poker, which was anticipated as its main source of funding, and there is no consensus on a plan to replace that revenue.

To fight gridlock and keep our cities and regions competitive, the U.S. needs a new approach to transportation planning and investment, one that maximizes the use of existing infrastructure, documents the value of new investments, and taps creative financing tools. Listen in to this MPC roundtable to explore new options for financing transportation infrastructure, including congestion pricing, a federal infrastructure bank, motor fuel tax, public-private partnerships, and vehicle miles traveled charge.

Rob Puentes, senior fellow and director of the Metropolitan Infrastructure Initiative at the Brookings Institution, discusses the status of federal transportation funding and opportunities for the U.S. to transform its transportation policy. Paul Hanley, director of the Transportation Policy Research Program at the University of Iowa, shares findings from his recently completed study of a mileage-based road user charge. Funded by the Federal Highway Administration, the study used several cities, including Chicago, as test sites to examine how a mileage-based road user charge would perform and be received by users. Ill. Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) talks about state transportation financing options and how she convinced her colleagues in the General Assembly to approve HB1091, landmark legislation that enables Illinois to use public-private partnerships for new transportation projects.

Recorded Monday, October 3, 2011 at the Metropolitan Planning Council.