In fiscal year 2010, states spent an estimated $131 billion in taxpayer dollars on transportation. However, only 13 states have goals, performance measures and data needed to show whether their surface transportation systems are advancing economic growth, mobility, access and other key objectives, according to a new report from the Washington-based Pew Center on the States (PCS) and the New York-based Rockefeller Foundation.
The report, "Measuring Transportation Investments: The Road to Success," examines six policy areas affected by transportation investments that are particularly important to states' economic well-being and taxpayers' quality of life: safety, jobs and commerce, mobility, access, environmental stewardship and infrastructure preservation. States were rated according to three levels — leading the way, having mixed results or trailing behind — for each of the six goals.
California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Washington were classified as leading the way, based on a review of publicly available documents and interviews with state and federal officials and experts in the field. Eighteen states had mixed results, while 19 states trail behind, lacking a full array of tools needed to account for the return on investment in their, highways, bridges and bus and rail systems.
The report's goal is to identify which states have the most tools in place for officials to make cost-effective transportation funding and policy choices, and to help lawmakers understand how to use the tools to do a better job with limited dollars. "Unless states have clear goals, performance measures and good data in place to generate that information, it is very difficult for policymakers to prioritize transportation investments effectively, target scarce resources and help foster economic growth," according to the executive summary for "The Road to Success." "Today, it is more important than ever that every tax dollar spent on transportation generates the best results and advances states' short- and long-term economic interests."
The report comes at a time when most states are entering their fourth year of the ongoing budget crisis, with revenues far below pre-recession levels and expenditures rising, according to PCS. "Meanwhile, some members of Congress are proposing that the next surface transportation reauthorization act, the law that governs the largest federal funding streams for states' transportation systems, move from a compliance-based to a performance-based approach and more closely tie dollars to outcomes," the report says.
Download the executive summary and the entire report.