But today the mayors said they see a ray of hope in the upcoming federal surface transportation authorization bill now beginning its journey through Congress.
Led by the Conference of Mayors' new President, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, the mayors today commended Congressman James Oberstar, who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for including a Metropolitan Mobility Program in his Blueprint for the Surface Transportation Authorization of 2009.
"The Conference's top priority in the next federal surface transportation authorization is the creation of a robust Metropolitan Mobility Program," said Mayor Nickels.
During his inaugural speech at the Conference's annual gathering, Mayor Nickels said, "For too long, the federal government has relied on cookie cutter formulas that don't produce the outcomes we all want. It is time to allocate funds in a way that most effectively reduces congestion in our nation's cities and targets transportation investments to centers of housing and employment."
Seattle's new light rail train on a test run. The service is scheduled to make its first official trip on July 18, 2009. (Photo by Doug Mahugh)
Prepared by IHS Global Insight, the report also shows that state departments of transportation have not allocated funds effectively to reduce congestion costs.
The nation's largest 85 metro areas account for 86.6 percent of traffic congestion costs, but receive only 48.2 percent of state-approved funding.
The three most congested areas in the country - Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago - suffer from 26.5 percent of the nation's congestion costs, but receive only 6.3 percent of federal surface transportation funds allocated to date by the states.
Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, who serves as the U.S. Conference of Mayors Transportation Committee Chair, said "The next federal transportation bill must ensure that congested areas actually receive funding and can budget for transportation investments that compliment centers of housing and employment."
"As local and as metropolitan leaders, mayors must be empowered to decide transportation investments in their areas," Hickenlooper said. "We believe that a Metropolitan Mobility Program will help to get us there."
"Our nation's metro economies rank high among world economies, but we are saddled with an outdated federal and state transportation system that prevents us from meeting the nations' needs," said Conference of Mayors CEO and Executive Director Tom Cochran.
"Mayors stand ready to work with the administration and Congress to pass new federal legislation that puts metro areas and cities at the center of how transportation dollars will be spent."
Nickels added, "As Congress and the administration look for funding for a long-term authorization of the transportation bill, the nation's mayors are pleased with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray La Hood's statement that an 18-month reauthorization would focus more investments on metro areas and promote livability."
On Tuesday, three Cabinet secretaries announced an interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities to help improve access to affordable housing, more transportation options, and lower transportation costs while protecting the environment in communities nationwide.
Testifying together at a Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee hearing Secretary LaHood, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson outlined the six guiding 'livability principles' they will use to coordinate federal transportation, environmental protection, and housing investments at their respective agencies.
First of the six principles is to provide more transportation choices.
The secretaries said they will aim to develop safe, reliable and economical transportation choices to decrease household transportation costs, reduce our nation's dependence on foreign oil, improve air quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote public health.
The second livability principle - to promote equitable, affordable housing - also has a mobility component.
The secretaries said they intend to expand location-efficient and energy-efficient housing choices for people of all ages, incomes, races and ethnicities to increase mobility and lower the combined cost of housing and transportation.
Secretary LaHood said, “Creating livable communities will result in improved quality of life for all Americans and create a more efficient and more accessible transportation network that serves the needs of individual communities. Fostering the concept of livability in transportation projects and programs will help America’s neighborhoods become safer, healthier and more vibrant.”
The other four livability principles are: enhance economic competitiveness, support existing communities, coordinate policies and leverage investment, and value communities and neighborhoods.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors is the official nonpartisan organization of the mayors of the 1,139 American cities with populations of 30,000 or more.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.