New AASHTO Executive Director Bud Wright sat down with transportation industry reporters last week for an informal question and answer session.
Wright told reporters that among his priorities were continuing the work to implement MAP-21 (the two-year reauthorization bill passed by Congress last year); finding a sustainable funding source for transportation; and improving safety conditions on our nation's transportation network.
"None of us should be happy 32,000 Americas die annually on our highways and roads," Wright said. "We've reduced the number of fatalities but it would be hard to say to anyone that lost a loved one that we were successful."
Reporters asked a range of questions, addressing issues from the possible replacement of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to different options states are pursuing to address sustainable transportation funding.
Wright said that while he was disappointed MAP-21 was only a two-year bill, it contained significant policy and program reforms that states are working—along with federal agencies—to implement.
Several questions focused on funding options for the Highway Trust Fund, and Wright stressed that AASHTO's board of directors had identified a menu of user-fee options for raising funds.
However, Wright said that AASHTO had no indication that any particular idea had gained traction over another with Congress.
"What we're trying to do is to open the dialogue on a variety of possibilities," Wright said. Our first and foremost challenge is to find anything the Congress can coalesce around that is in some fashion user-based to keep this program on sustainable footing as we go forward.