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Choosing transportation projects that actually match our priorities

Choosing transportation projects that actually match our priorities
19 Jul 2018 | Posted by Beth Osborne

Transportation for America recently wrapped up a year of work with six metro areas to direct their transportation dollars to projects that help them achieve their goals and become the kinds of places they aspire to be.

Here’s a simple and perhaps obvious fact about transportation funding: There will never be enough money to do all the things we want to do. Even when the federal government, states, or localities come up with additional new money through a ballot measure or a gas tax increase or the like, the list projects that we want to build just grows along with the dollars.

So what’s the recipe for success? Like most truths in life, the answer is simple, but hard. Transportation agencies that want to succeed must: 1) articulate their goals, 2) evaluate transportation projects to ensure they are well-connected to those goals, and then 3) track how those projects perform after they are built. That is the simple idea behind performance measures in transportation. And sadly, their use is rare.

While 75 percent of the metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) we surveyed in 2017 (78 of 104) used performance measures in some fashion in their last long-range plan, less than half (45 out of 104) actually used them to explicitly select which projects to include in the plan. Less than half of them actually created a system to determine “whether or not this project will move the needle on our overall goals.” (MPOs are the federally created regional agencies that plan and distribute federal transportation money within metro areas.) FULL ARTICLE

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