SACOG Director Testifies Before US Senate Public Works Committee
Sacramento region needs highlighted as Congress seeks local input on next federal Infrastructure Bill
November 28, 2018: SACOG Executive Director James Corless appeared this morning before the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works to provide testimony on the future of transportation and the critical perspective that the Sacramento region has to offer on the next federal transportation bill. It was the first time in a decade that Congress had heard testimony from a SACOG staff member.
Corless, appearing alongside the President of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and the Vice President of the Association of General Contractors, called for federal transportation policy to more openly embrace and encourage technology, innovation, data-driven planning, and partnerships with the private sector. He said broadening the flexibility of federal highway funding would allow innovative approaches such as shared ride projects to compete for funds, as well as “a greater emphasis on national and even state-level competitive grant programs that explicitly encourage innovation, technology, pilot projects, and partnerships with the private sector.”
Drawing on his three decades of experience in transportation planning, Corless said the planning process needed to be strengthened and simplified, making it “less about checkboxes and more about data-driven decision-making.” And pointing to the Sacramento region’s diverse environment where 85 percent of the land is rural, he said urban and rural areas were “inextricably linked”, with every new job on a farm leading to two jobs in urban areas.
The committee members’ questions revealed bipartisan agreement on some key issues, notably the need to future-proof both transportation revenues and infrastructure in the face of changing transportation behavior and accelerating climate change. Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker made the point that if the federal gas tax, instituted in 1993, had been indexed to inflation, there would now be 50 percent more revenue available for infrastructure projects.
New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand highlighted the dangers of crumbling public transit infrastructure, exacerbated by “climate-change fueled sea level rise and extreme weather.” In response Corless said the Sacramento region’s increasing heat had led to aging transit systems failing and that we all face the consequences of underinvestment in such systems. “The connection between transportation in general, transit in our major metro areas and economic prosperity is strong and we can’t lose it.”