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A six-year bipartisan surface transportation reauthorization bill with aim on improving Reliability was introduced yesterday.

U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and other senior Committee members introduced a bipartisan six-year surface transportation reauthorization bill yesterday titled the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act. The legislation, which includes a new Transportation Innovation title sought by ITS America, is scheduled for a committee markup this morning at 9:30 a.m. EDT. 

ITS America President and CEO Regina Hopper applauded Committee leaders for introducing the legislation, saying “We commend Chairman Inhofe, Ranking Member Boxer, and members of the Committee for their commitment to a safer, smarter, more efficient and innovative transportation future through modernizing our nation’s infrastructure. The DRIVE Act recognizes the critical importance of a high-tech, connected transportation and infrastructure network. The legislation prioritizes federal programs to encourage new innovation, accelerate the adoption of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), and embrace the convergence of vehicle connectivity and automation, real-time data, and mobile apps and services. These innovative technologies will significantly reduce traffic deaths and injuries, provide people and businesses with more convenient and seamless transportation options, and equip state and local agencies with better tools to manage highways and transit systems.”

Among other key provisions, the DRIVE Act would:

• Increase highway spending from $37.8 billion in FY 2015 to $45.5 billion in FY 2021, with increases of roughly $2 billion each year and total spending of $257.5 billion on Federal-aid Highway programs over the six year life of the bill;

• Continue the major highway formula programs, including the: o National Highway Performance Program (funded at $143.5 billion over six years);

o Surface Transportation Program (funded at $64.5 billion over six years);

o Highway Safety Improvement Program (funded at $12 billion over six years); and

o Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (funded at $14.6 billion over six years);

• Create a new National Freight Program funded at $13.4 billion over six years (starting at $2 billion in FY 2016 and increasing to $2.5 billion in FY 2021), one of the goals of which is to use advanced technology to improve the safety and efficiency of the national highway freight network.

o Among the eligible expenditures in the new freight program are Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) and technologies to improve the flow of freight, including Intelligent Freight Transportation Systems; real-time traffic, truck parking, roadway condition, and multimodal information systems; electronic screening and credentialing systems for vehicles, including weigh-in-motion truck inspection technologies; traffic signal optimization, including synchronized and adaptive signals; work zone management and information systems; highway ramp meters; electronic cargo and border security technologies that improve truck freight movement; and ITS technologies that would increase truck freight efficiencies inside the boundaries of intermodal facilities.

o States are required to develop freight plans that must include, among other factors, evidence of consideration of innovation technologies and operational strategies, including ITS technologies, that improve the safety and efficiency of freight movement.

o Grant applicants under the freight program are encouraged to use innovative technologies including ITS to enhance project efficiency.

• Establish a new Assistance for Major Projects (AMP) program which provides between $300 million and $450 million annually for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to award grants, upon Congressional approval, for critical high-cost surface transportation infrastructure projects that are difficult to complete with existing Federal, State, local, and private funds. The projects must achieve one or more of the following objectives: generate national or regional economic benefits and an increase in U.S. global economic competitiveness; reduce congestion and the impacts of congestion; improve roadways vital to national energy security; improve the efficiency, reliability, and affordability of the movement of freight; improve transportation safety; improve existing and designated future Interstate System routes; or improve the movement of people through improving rural connectivity and metropolitan accessibility.

o In evaluating projects for selection, the Federal Highway Administrator is required to consider several additional factors including the extent to which a project leverages Federal investment by encouraging non-Federal contributions to the project, including contributions from public-private partnerships; is able to begin construction within 18 months of selection; incorporates innovative project delivery and financing; and uses innovative technologies, including ITS, that enhance the efficiency of the project;

• Modernize the environmental review process by encouraging the use of technologies including searchable databases, geographic information system mapping tools, and other innovative technologies;

• Establish a new Transportation Innovation title with subsections focused on research and technology deployment, data, and best practices; • Authorize $62.5 million per year for the FHWA’s Technology and Innovation Deployment program, of which not less than half must be spent on competitive Innovation Grants to carry out demonstration programs that will accelerate the deployment and adoption of transportation research activities;

• Continue funding for ITS research at $100 million per year, and expand the role of the federal ITS program to help improve the nation’s ability to respond to security-related or other manmade emergencies and natural disasters, and to enhance the freight system and support policy goals by conducting heavy duty vehicle demonstrations and accelerating the adoption of ITS in freight operations;

• Create a System Operations and ITS Deployment Grant Program within the ITS research program, funded at $30 million per year, to accelerate the deployment, operation, systems management, intermodal integration, and interoperability of ITS and operational strategies (see below for a detailed summary);

• Authorize $72.5 million per year for the University Transportation Centers (UTC) program;

• Provide explicit funding eligibility for Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) communication equipment within the National Highway Performance Program, Surface Transportation Program, and Highway Safety Improvement Program;

• Provide additional tolling flexibility by allowing states to toll new Interstate lane construction, consider the use of tolls for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the Interstate System, and proceed quickly once they have met the requirements of the Interstate toll pilot program (including an explanation of how the state plans to utilize electronic toll collection). The bill also removes limitations on HOV-to-HOT lane conversions for states that meet certain requirements including using automated and variably-priced tolling, and directs the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to establish a pilot program to develop a marketplace in which up to 10 states can buy and sell toll credits;

• Authorize the U.S. DOT to research user-based alternative revenue mechanisms that preserve a user fee structure to maintain the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund, and authorize the Secretaries of Transportation and the Treasury to establish a Surface Transportation Revenue Alternatives Advisory Council (that will include technology and public privacy experts) to define the functionality of at least two user-based alternatives, identify relevant issues, conduct public outreach, evaluate research, and provide recommendations. The bill authorizes $15 million in FY 2016 and $20 million every year thereafter through FY 2021.

o U.S DOT is directed to provide grants to conduct alternative revenue research that addresses the implementation, interoperability, public acceptance, and other potential hurdles to the adoption of a user-based mechanism; the protection of personal privacy; the use of independent and private third party vendors to collect fees and operate the user-based alternative revenue mechanism; equity concerns, including the impacts of the user-based revenue mechanism on differing income groups, various geographic areas, and the relative burdens on rural and urban drivers; ease of compliance for different users of the transportation system; the reliability and security of technology used to implement the user-based alternative revenue mechanism; the flexibility and choices of user-based alternative revenue mechanisms, including the ability of users to select from various technology and payment options; the cost of administering the user-based alternative revenue mechanism; and the ability of the administering entity to audit and enforce user compliance.

• Commission a “Future Interstate Study” on the actions needed to upgrade and restore the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways to its role as a premier system network that meets the growing and shifting demands of today and the next 50 years. The study will include recommendations regarding the features, standards, capacity needs, application of technologies, and intergovernmental roles to upgrade the Interstate System, including any revisions to law or regulations deemed appropriate to achieve the goals;

• Establish a new Achievement in Transportation for Performance and Innovation competitive grant program to reward implementation of policies and procedures that support performance-based management of the surface transportation system and improve transportation outcomes, or use innovative technologies and practices that improve the efficiency and performance of the transportation system, including by using innovative techniques and practices that enhance the effective movement of people, goods and services (such as technologies to reduce construction time, improve operational efficiencies, and extend the service life of highways and bridges). The bill authorizes $150 million per year for the program, of which no more than $15 million may be allocated per grant recipient;

• Authorize FHWA to continue the Every Day Counts initiative to work with states, local agencies, and interested stakeholders to identify and deploy innovative practices and products that accelerate innovation deployment; shorten the project delivery process; improve environmental sustainability; enhance roadway safety; and reduce congestion; and

• Require FHWA to develop, use, and maintain data sets and data analysis tools to assist States and MPOs in carrying out performance management analyses, including collection and distribution of vehicle probe data; collection of household travel behavior data; enhancement of existing data collection and analysis tools to accommodate performance measures, targets, and related data to better understand trip origin and destination, trip time, and mode; improved performance predictions and travel models; and evaluation of the effects of project investments on performance.

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation is expected to introduce its reauthorization proposal in the next few weeks addressing multimodal freight, safety, and research priorities, with the Senate Banking Committee responsible for providing the transit title of the bill. The Senate Finance Committee, which is responsible for coming up with funding to pay for the legislation, will hold a hearing this Thursday addressing private sector financing of transportation projects, following hearings last week in both the House and Senate on the Highway Trust Fund shortfall and potential funding solutions.

System Operations and ITS Deployment Grant Program

The new $30 million per year System Operations and ITS Deployment Grant Program is aimed at utilizing innovative technology to measure and improve transportation system performance; reduce traffic congestion and the economic and environmental impacts of traffic congestion; minimize fatalities and injuries; enhance mobility of people and goods; improve traveler information and services; and optimize existing roadway capacity. To be eligible for a grant, entities must submit applications to the U.S. DOT that include:

• A plan to deploy and provide for the long-term operation and maintenance of ITS to improve safety, efficiency, system performance, and return on investment, such as autonomous vehicle, V2V and V2I communication technologies; real-time integrated traffic, transit, and multimodal transportation information; advanced traffic, freight, parking, and incident management systems; technologies to improve transit and commercial vehicle operations; synchronized, adaptive, and transit preferential traffic signals; infrastructure condition assessment technologies; and other technologies to improve system operations including ITS needed for multimodal systems integration and achieving performance goals;

• Quantifiable system performance improvements, including reductions in traffic-related crashes, congestion, and costs; optimization of system efficiency; and improved access to transportation services;

• Quantifiable safety, mobility, and environmental benefit projections, including data-driven estimates of the manner in which the project will improve the efficiency of the transportation system and reduce traffic congestion in the region;

• A plan for partnering with the private sector, including telecommunications industries and public service utilities, public agencies including multimodal and multijurisdictional entities, research institutions, organizations representing transportation and technology leaders, and other transportation stakeholders;

• A plan to leverage and optimize existing local and regional ITS investments; and

• A plan to ensure interoperability of deployed technologies with other tolling, traffic management, and intelligent transportation systems.


Projects for which grants may be awarded include:

• The deployment of autonomous vehicle, V2V and V2I communication technologies;

• The establishment and implementation of ITS and ITS-enabled operations strategies that improve performance in the areas of traffic operations, emergency response to surface transportation incidents, incident management, transit and commercial vehicle operations improvements, weather event response management by State and local authorities, surface transportation network and facility management, construction and work zone management, traffic flow information, freight management, and congestion management;

• Carrying out activities that support the creation of networks that link metropolitan and rural surface transportation systems into an integrated data network, capable of collecting, sharing, and archiving transportation system traffic condition and performance information;

• The implementation of ITS technologies that improve highway safety through information and communications systems linking vehicles, infrastructure, mobile devices, transportation users, and emergency responders;

• The provision of services necessary to ensure the efficient operation and management of ITS infrastructure, including costs associated with communications, utilities, rent, hardware, software, labor, administrative costs, training, and technical services;

• The provision of support for the establishment and maintenance of institutional relationships between transportation agencies, police, emergency medical services, private emergency operators, freight operators, shippers, public service utilities, and telecommunications providers;

• Carrying out multimodal and cross-jurisdictional planning and deployment of regional transportation systems operations and management approaches; and

• Performing project evaluations to determine the costs, benefits, lessons learned, and future deployment strategies associated with the deployment of intelligent transportation systems.

- BY Paul Feenstra of ITS America