Today, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign released “Tracking State Transportation Dollars,” an unprecedented report [pdf] and website that breaks down each state’s transportation improvement program (known as a STIP). The STIP is a federally mandated reporting document that lists all projects expected to be funded with federal dollars, and serves as the best possible blueprint to understand state transportation spending priorities, usually over a four year period.
After obtaining and reviewing each state’s STIP, the Campaign found that, on average, states are spending 20% of their transportation dollars (often leveraged by state and local sources) on transit, 2% on bicycle/pedestrian projects, 39% on projects that maintain roads and bridges, and 23% on projects that add new capacity to roads and bridges. This project is an expansion of Tri-State’s STIP analyses for New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
In the tri-state region, the Campaign found that Connecticut devotes 23% of its STIP to road and bridge expansion, while New York commits 62% of its STIP to transit and 2% to bicycle/pedestrian projects. Both Connecticut and New Jersey commit 27% of their transportation dollars to maintaining existing roads and bridges.
“Each STIP analysis is a helpful policy tool for taxpayers and legislators interested in understanding how federal transportation dollars, often leveraged by state and local funds, are being spent throughout the state,” said Tri-State Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool.
The Campaign’s report, “Tracking State Transportation Dollars,” found that:
- Transportation reporting documents are not uniform, and in many states, these documents are inaccessible and not transparent to the public;
- State departments of transportation tend to do a poor job of clearly explaining how transportation dollars are spent; and
- More transparency increases public support of transportation projects.
“Improved reporting in each state’s STIP will help the public, elected officials, and the federal government understand the kinds of transportation investments each state is making with its federal dollars,” said Renata Silberblatt, staff analyst at the Campaign and report author. “Furthermore, increased transparency can help state DOTs gain public support for their projects,” she added.
To achieve increased uniformity and transparency in state-level transportation planning, the report recommends:
- Increasing accessibility of STIPs and the creation of a state DOT contact for all STIP questions;
- Requiring uniform information and project categories in all STIPs;
- Including descriptions and costs of project components in STIPs; and
- Developing performance metrics for STIP projects.
An interactive website, TrackStateDollars.org, was also launched and includes fact sheets that outline each state’s transportation spending.
“We hope that the information provided in this report and in state-level analysis will help people across the country encourage their state DOTs to make more sustainable and equitable transportation decisions,” said Silberblatt. According to Silberblatt, this is particularly true because MAP-21, the transportation law signed by President Obama on July 6th, gives state DOTs more flexibility in how federal transportation dollars are allocated. “Given this flexibility, it is even more important for the public to pay close attention to how their state DOTs are choosing to spend their funds,” Silberblatt noted.