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Transportation Work Group

** This Work Group is no longer active

The Transportation Workgroup is chaired by Ron Hammerschmidt of Kansas and was established in the Fall of 2002 at the ECOS Annual Meeting in San Antonio, Texas. The original charter for the group focused on legislation, specifically the reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21).

Congress acts on a national transportation bill every five years, the last time being 1998 when TEA-21 passed. Congress has renewed that bill several times while working on the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2003 (SAFE-TEA). Doing so kept the authorization for large federal dollars to flow to state transportation agencies intact while debate occurs over SAFE-TEA.

SAFETEA has several sections of concern to ECOS members that address environmental, natural resource, recreation, land use, and growth issues. Specific environmental issues include several major funding issues, NEPA issues, air issues, water issues.

In the Spring of 2004, the workgroup expanded its charter beyond a legislative focus to include liaison efforts with the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials (AASHTO). The Workgroup has also identified priority issues to address. Suggestions from the Spring Meeting included conformity (how do we make it work), storm water, cultural exchanges (finding success stories between state environmental and transportation agencies), data management, inter-modal transportation and research issues of joint concern. The Workgroup may also consider exploring the use of 319 funds to help state transportation agencies.

ECOS Letter to House Highways, Transit and Pipelines Subcommittee Regarding SAFETEA

June 28, 2004

The Honorable Thomas E. Petri
Chairman, House Highways, Transit and Pipelines Subcommittee
United States House of Representatives
2462 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman Petri:

On behalf of the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS*), I'm writing to reiterate our organization's concerns with modifications to two key transportation Clean Air conformity measures in the Senate transportation bill, S. 1072 and House bill, H.R. 3550. The modifications relate to the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) program and changes to the planning horizon for the Regional Transportation plans. We urge the conference committee not to adopt these changes, which if enacted, will threaten public health and the environment.

Regional Transportation Plans (RTP) - ECOS strongly believes that the current Regional Transportation Planning (RTP) process of 20 years should remain intact. Senate Bill 1072 amended the length of time from 20 years to ten. Conversely, the House bill continues to require conformity demonstration through the last year of the transportation plan, except in areas where the air pollution control agency and metropolitan planning organization agree to reduce the planning horizon. The current twenty-year timeframe for the planning process better harmonizes the transportation planning and air quality planning time frames. For example, this timeframe provides ten years for areas to attain the majority of the standards and the following ten years for maintenance. By cutting the time in half, ECOS feels that the long-term environmental impacts of transportation projects will not be fully evaluated, particularly given that many major projects can take upwards of ten years to complete.

CMAQ - ECOS firmly believes that CMAQ funding should specifically be designated for projects that result in air quality benefits. The language in both bills has been modified to permit funds to be used for ’transportation systems management and operations. This could conceivably allow funds to be used for purposes other than the original intent of the program. While we applaud the expansion of the program to include projects focusing on PM2.5, resulting in a slight increase in funding, the rate of increase was less than that for highway increases. State environmental agencies play an integral role in ensuring that transportation projects meet environmental standards in their jurisdiction. Accordingly, there should be a requirement that state environmental agencies concur on all CMAQ projects.

If you need any additional information or have questions, please feel free to contact me at 202-624-3660. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely, R. Steven Brown
ECOS Executive Director

*ECOS is the national, non-profit, non-partisan association of state and territorial environmental commissioners.