Interstate Highways Need National Leadership   Leave a comment

Let’s look at this clearly. We’re talking transportation. I submit that transportation projects can be handled by the states far better than they are currently being handled by the federal government.

Highway : this is an elevated highway in Austin Texas.

There have been various plans to end the federal role in the highway system. This is not a new idea. The “turnback” proposal was floated in the Reagan administration and promoted by John Kasich and Connie Mack in the 1990s. Most recently Jeff Flake sponsored a bill that proposed a gradual elimination of the federal fuel tax, elimination of the Highway Trust Fund, and devolution to the states of responsibility for funding the maintenance and construction of their highway systems. These proposals would enable each state to finance its roads in accordance with the wishes of its voters.

There are people who will insist that the nation needs federal oversight of highway programs in order to avoid chaos. Hmm, well, the Building Codes that govern construction of structures throughout the United States would argue otherwise. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is a non-profit, nonpartisan association that produces the building codes every three years. These codes are usually adopted unedited by city building departments. There’s no chaos. Most states accept occupational licenses from other states without testing so long as the license is based on NFPA standards.

You may be surprised to learn that there is a similar organization that could fulfill such a function for highways.

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan association representing highway and transportation departments in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. It represents all five transportation modes: air, highways, public transportation, rail, and water. Its primary goal is to foster the development, operation, and maintenance of an integrated national transportation system.

Wow, doesn’t that sound like a non-governmental agency that is doing what FHWA claims to do?

As the voice of transportation, AASHTO works to educate the public and key decision-makers about the critical role that transportation plays in securing a good quality of life and sound economy for our nation. AASHTO serves as a liaison between state departments of transportation and the Federal government. AASHTO is an international leader in setting technical standards for all phases of highway system development. Standards are issued for design, construction of highways and bridges, materials, and many other technical areas.

File:AASHTO logo.gif

AASHTO serves as a catalyst for excellence in transportation by offering:

  • Smart solutions and promising practices;
  • Critical information, training and data;
  • Direct technical assistance to states; and
  • Unchallenged expertise.

AASHTO is guided by a Board of Directors made up of the chief transportation officers from the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. The 12-member Executive Committee is led by AASHTO’s elected officers, and is assisted by its executive director.

AASHTO’s policy development, standards setting, and technical activities are the product of volunteer state department of transportation personnel who work through the AASHTO committee structure. The committees collaborate throughout the year and typically meet annually. These committees, which represent the highest standard of transportation expertise in the country, address virtually every element of planning, designing, constructing, and maintaining transportation services.

Yeah, that is exactly what the Federal Highway Administration claims to do. So why do we need two organizations? Leave the money in the states, eliminating the administrative “fees” the federal government takes, thereby lowering road costs or increasing the amount of money available for road projects. Allow a neutral, state-based party like AASHTO to set a nation-wide standard and eliminate a whole lot of federal waste. Our interstate highway system can have national leadership that is not top-down dictatorship.

Why can’t we do that? “Because we’re not used to it” is not an acceptable answer!

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