Off the MAP

May 1, 2015

Next long-term bill needs to sustain safety funding levels

As Washington, D.C., plunged into summer last year, Congress came together and passed the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, better known as MAP-21.

It was a bumpy road to get there, but the final vote for passage in both chambers was overwhelmingly bipartisan. Although the law contained many improvements with streamlining and efficiency, it only authorized federal highway funding and policy through Sept. 30, 2014, at existing funding levels. Within MAP-21, Congress not only maintained the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP), but nearly doubled its funding to $2.4 billion a year. Lawmakers clearly understood not only the federal role in roadway safety, but also that there is much more work to do to make our nation’s roads as safe as possible and move Toward Zero Deaths. 

As we move into the summer of 2013, transportation stakeholders and legislators must begin to think about what’s next for federal highway funding. The Highway Trust Fund is spending more than it is taking in, and the future is not promising for that to change unless there is an increase in revenue. By the fall of 2014, the Highway Trust Fund will again be out of funding and in need of additional revenue. 

In order to persuade the motoring public that paying more for transportation is a worthwhile investment, we need not look any further than roadway safety infrastructure. If nothing else, road users expect travel on roads and bridges to be safe, reliable and consistent from state to state. Although our system is relatively safe, more than 32,000 fatalities still occur each year on our roadway network. However, this is a significant decrease from 2006 when the nation was averaging more than 40,000 fatalities annually. Continued federal investment in the HSIP will aide in the continued reduction in these fatalities and serious injuries and will help increase the public trust in the system they travel on and the taxes they pay to support that system. 

Time and time again as ATSSA is on Capitol Hill speaking with members of Congress about this issue, we rarely receive pushback. On both sides of the aisle and in both chambers, legislators and Congressional staff are eager to help make our roads as safe as possible. 

In an era of tighter budgets, cost-effective safety infrastructure improvements yield a tremendous return on investment. In a 2010 study, SAIC found that for every $1 million obligated by the HSIP, there is a societal savings of $42 million. There are not many programs either in Washington, D.C. or in state capitals that can claim that sort of success. 

Although increased and continued funding is always a hard sell in Washington, D.C., these days, our industry has a good story to tell: simply that federal funding for roadway safety infrastructure saves lives. To learn more about ATSSA’s efforts on Capitol Hill, contact [email protected] ST

About The Author: Smith is the associate director of government relations for the American Traffic Safety Services Association, Washington, D.C.

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