Meet the New AASHTO?

Today on the Streetsblog Network, member blog Beyond DC has a question: "Where is the old AASHTO and what have you done with them?"

happymotoring.jpgThe question is prompted by "You Told Us," a shiny new PDF from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (which Beyond DC describes as "the main professional association for traffic engineers"), the result of a recent campaign soliciting comments from ordinary Americans about what they want in a transportation system:

The pattern that emerges from the document is one advocating for more spending on safety projects, transit projects, and other intermodal projects, rather than a bunch of highway widenings. They want to raise the gas tax, make cycling safer, reduce emissions, encourage smart growth, and change regulatory formulas to level the playing field between cars and other modes.

While the "You Told Us" release is encouraging, there’s plenty about old-school highway expansion in AASHTO’s policy summaries for 2009. But there are positive signs as well, with lots of talk about intercity rail, expansion of public transit, and even this:

Encourage a "Complete Streets" approach to local road design to better meet the needs of those in wheelchairs, bike riders and pedestrians.

What role do you think AASHTO might play as we go forward toward the reauthorization of the transportation spending bill later this year?

Also on the network today: CTA Tattler has the lowdown on the possibility of a post-Blago gas-tax hike in Illinois, while 1000 Friends of Connecticut argues that higher federal gas taxes would do more good than energy-efficient vehicles.

  • I would throw my support behind AASHTO if they dropped their plan to add 40,000 lane miles to the National Highway System.

  • Chris in Sacramento

    A very high-ranking AASHTO official once confided to me that the reason they don’t go after Enhancements and such is that these small programs put a positive glow on the otherwise dreary federal transportaton program. Enhancements (and Safe Routes to School) motivate numerous nontraditional partners–preservationists, PTAs, health and safety advocates, etc– to tinker on the edges of the process and implicitly endorse the policy as a whole without really changing anything. In this sense, the walk-bike community polishes for consumption by the public the rotten apple that is the federal transportation program.

    That’s not to pass judgment upon walk-bike advocates, as alternative strategies–national critical mass, $8 gasoline, direct action, etc– pose challenges of legality, morality or movement capacity.

  • I’m probably as vociferous an advocate of raising gasoline taxes as can be found. But the argument for this position, and against higher-mpg cars, by 1000 Friends of Connecticut (see link in article) — that higher-mpg cars will be driven so much more that they will “use up” the gasoline savings — has been proven specious by empirical evidence. I’ve posted a comment to this effect on the 1000 Friends site, which you can find via the same link.

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