Western states speeding up transportation projects; future gains rely on long-term certainty
Earlier this week, while in Albuquerque taking part in the Western Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (WASHTO) 2014 meeting, I had a great opportunity to see firsthand what New Mexico and the 17 other WASHTO member states are doing to get projects done sooner. Their work can be summed up in two words – innovation and investment. Those words are also the cornerstone of FHWA’s “Every Day Counts” (EDC) program to promote state-based project delivery efforts.
The WASHTO conference theme, “Crossroads to the Future,” was right on target, in part because New Mexico and its western counterparts are stepping forward to meet the challenges they face with resolve and ingenuity.
For example, the city of Albuquerque and New Mexico’s DOT are working on an EDC project-delivery method known as “design-build” with assistance from FHWA for the Paseo Del Norte/I-25 interchange reconstruction. When completed, the project will relieve traffic congestion, improve air quality, increase safety at one of the state’s busiest interchanges, and be completed sooner than previously thought possible. Finishing projects sooner also means saving money.
Unfortunately, the kind of progress achieved in New Mexico and throughout the WASHTO region is at risk. Much depends on the willingness of Congress to pass a long-term transportation bill that gives our states the funding and policy certainty they need to continue planning other projects like these.
Investing in New Mexico’s I-25 and other major routes is central to keeping our nation’s economy strong. But doing so requires funds –either from the state, local, or federal government. It often takes all three. The GROW AMERICA Act that Secretary Foxx sent to Capitol Hill in May gets us there, by reinvigorating state and local highway investments, creating jobs for thousands, and extending longer than a quick-fix stopgap measure.
Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming have diverse climates, road conditions, traffic volumes and transportation challenges. But when it comes to delivering better projects quickly, they all have one thing in common: every day they are working to save time, save money, and save lives.
FHWA and DOT will continue to support their work and maintain their trust as they build or improve upon their highways, roads and bridges. But the transportation leaders of those states made it clear at the WASHTO conference that, as they navigate the "Crossroads to the Future," they also need congressional action that sends a similar signal of support.