The Innovation in Surface Transportation Act would create an in-state grant program that would allow a percentage of federal highway funds to be competitively bid-for by eligible local entities.
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Normal Mayor Chris Koos, representatives from Transportation for America and other local stakeholders unveiled legislation Wednesday that would give Illinois communities better access to federal transportation funds to invest in innovative projects that would boost local economies. Davis and U.S. Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) will introduce the bill in the House next week.
“Rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure is key to turning our economy around and creating good-paying jobs, and local municipalities, planning commissions and transit agencies must be a part of that process,” Davis said. “The Innovation in Surface Transportation Act is a commonsense, bipartisan bill to give local entities a stronger voice when it comes to funding local projects. Additionally, this bill recognizes our nation’s fiscal realities by giving preference to projects that strengthen the return on investment, encouraging public-private partnerships and increasing transparency so that every federal dollar spent goes a little bit further.”
Most federal highway funds are given to the states to spend at their discretion. The input and ability of local governments to decide how to use those funds is limited. The law would create an in-state grant program that would allow a percentage of those funds to be competitively bid-for by eligible local entities. This competition will ensure that the funds are used for the best projects that have the highest return on investment for local communities and the state. For example, for Fiscal Year 2014, the total amount that would be set-aside if this law was enacted for the in-state grant program in Illinois would be more than $218 million.
Eligible entities include:
- Local governments
- Regional transportation authorities
- Transit agencies
- Tribal governments
- Private providers of public transportation
- Nonprofit transportation organizations
- Port authorities
Each state would be required to initiate the in-state competitive grant program within 30 days of the beginning of a fiscal year and create a selection panel consisting of no less than 11 individuals representing the following:
- State Department of Transportation
- Local governments
- Metropolitan planning organizations, councils of governments and other rural planning organizations
- Local Chambers of Commerce
- Air Quality Board or a local organization supporting improved air quality
- State Safety Board or a local organization supporting safety
- Transit agency
- Port authority
- Safe Routes to School or active transportation organization
- Public interest organizations
No fewer than three individuals representing local governments, state Departments of Transportation, and regional government entities can serve on the panel and local governments must include at least one representative from each of:
- A jurisdiction with a population of 50,000 or fewer
- A jurisdiction with a population of more than 50,000 and not more than 1,00,000 individuals
- A jurisdiction with a population of more than 1,000,000 individuals
The legislation places great importance on transparency and reporting by the states. It requires the selection criteria, methodology, projects requested, projects selected, and ranking and scoring. In addition, it requires the states to submit a report to the U.S. Department of Transportation including the previously listed criteria as well as the organizations represented on the selection panel.