NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF STATE LEGISLATURES & AASHTO CENTER FOR EXCELLENCE IN PROJECT FINANCE
In recent years, states have faced challenges in providing a safe, reliable, effective and efficient transportation network. These challenges are characterized by an aging system and growing transportation needs, coupled with declining abilities to pay for needed maintenance and capacity expansion. How each state meets these challenges is necessarily shaped by its distinctive approach to governing and paying for its transportation system, within a unique balance of power among its branches of government. Yet, until now, little nationwide, comparative information has been available about how state government entities work together in practice to address transportation governance and finance.
From 2010 to 2011, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) partnered to produce an unprecedented, 50-state review of transportation governance and finance, based largely on in-depth, original survey research. The project focused on transportation finance and on the roles of, and relationships between, those state government entities that are most active in transportation issues: state legislatures and, under the authority of governors, state departments of transportation (DOTs). The resulting groundbreaking report is intended to benefit DOTs and legislatures by offering a rich diversity of approaches to consider as they seek to address their states’ transportation challenges and effectively serve the public good within what often are complex intergovernmental arrangements. The report provides an overview of state transportation governance and finance as well as detailed profiles and other information for each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
Participants in Transportation Governance and Finance
A complex network of public and private organizations finances, plans, builds and operates the U.S. transportation system. Every U.S. jurisdiction has an elected legislative body that is broadly responsible for policies, programs and, to some extent, appropriations and program oversight, and an agency or department within the executive branch that is responsible for highway functions under the authority of a governor or other lead executive. The organizational structures and functions of these entities, however, vary widely across jurisdictions.
Legislatures vary from those with year-round sessions, full-time legislators and large staffs (such as those in California, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania) to those with limited or biennial sessions, part-time legislators and smaller staffs (such as those in Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia). A legislature’s overall characteristics and capacity will affect, but not necessarily dictate, the extent of its involvement in transportation governance. Vermont, for example—a state that has a part-time legislature with limited staff and compensation—has high legislative involvement in transportation issues.
State DOTs vary by organizational structure, modes served, balance between state and local roles, and general roles and responsibilities. They also vary by the practical division of roles and responsibilities between the governor and the DOT. In some states—including Michigan and Oklahoma—governors have chosen to delegate much of the responsibility to the DOTs. In others—such as Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon and Pennsylvania— the governor’s office is more actively involved in transportation policy and budgeting.
Other major stakeholders in transportation governance and finance include federal entities; state transportation commissions and boards; state-level non-highway modal agencies; tolling and turnpike agencies; airport and port authorities; tribal, regional, metropolitan and local entities; and voters, interest groups and the general public.
About the National Conference of State Legislatures
“The National Conference of State Legislatures is a bipartisan organization that serves the legislators and staffs of the nation’s 50 states, its commonwealths and territories. NCSL provides research, technical assistance and opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on the most pressing state issues. NCSL is an effective and respected advocate for the interests of state governments before Congress and federal agencies.”
About the AASHTO Center for Excellence in Project Finance
“Established in the 2005 SAFETEA-LU transportation authorization act, the mission of the AASHTO Center for Excellence in Project Finance is to provide support to State Departments of Transportation in the development of finance plans and project oversight tools and to develop and offer training and state-of-the-art finance methods to advance transportation projects and leverage funding.”