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Guest on The Infra Blog: Rod Diridon, Sr., Emeritus Executive Director, Mineta Transportation Institute

Posted by Steve Anderson on Tuesday, December 29th, 2015

Rod Diridon on The Infra BlogRod Diridon, Sr., served as executive director of the Mineta Transportation Institute from 1995, four years after the Institute’s creation, until 2014 when he moved to Emeritus status. Mr. Diridon has chaired more than 100 international, national, state and local programs, most related to transit and the environment. He provides legislative testimony on sustainable transportation issues and is regarded by many as the “father” of modern transit service in Silicon Valley.

Governors Davis and Schwarzenegger appointed him to the California High-Speed Rail Authority Board, of which he is chair emeritus. He helped found, and is chair emeritus of, the High-Speed and Intercity Rail Committee and the National High-Speed Rail Corridors Coalition of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). He also was president of the national Council of University Transportation Centers.

The FAST Act: A Little Bit Better Than Nothing
I think it’s better than nothing, that’s for sure. The President, of course, would have liked a lot more, but the very conservative Congress right now just wasn’t willing to give him what he wanted…and of course this bill was a maintenance bill. It just maintained the prior level of spending, which was inadequate. So we have a long, long way to go before we begin to compete again on the international marketplace with our transportation systems.

Where the 2015 Transportation Bill Comes up Short
…we have the dichotomy of having a wonderful national highway system wearing out and still not complete, yet there’s not enough money provided in that bill to even maintain the prior highway system. So we’re far, far short, even with highways…We don’t have the funds to build the mass transportation systems that were required to be developed and master planned by federal law…So we’re in the middle of trying to build a mass transportation system from the good legislation of the 80s and the 90s, and they’ve never been funded so they’re half way done, and so those areas, the Sunbelt areas, are rapidly reaching what we call terminal gridlock…

We Need User Fees to Stay Competitive
The minimum gas prices around the world are more than double, sometimes triple, the United States…Now the public in America wants a gas tax increase: the polls show it. The polls show that if the gas tax increase will be used for transportation and infrastructure improvements, then the public supports it sometimes as high as 80%…But the U.S. can’t do it because Congress doesn’t have the courage.

Keeping the Highway Trust Fund in Business
…the Highway Trust Fund is the sequestered program that can’t be used for anything but transportation. It’s used for highways and transit and inter-city rail…But we have to create a long-term funding source for the Highway Trust Fund. Well, they patched that in this bill by taking reserve funds out of the Federal Reserve and putting it into the Trust Fund. Well, that makes no sense. There’s no relationship to a user fee there.

Download full transcript (PDF): Ron Diridon, Sr., on The Infra Blog

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