Transportation Policy Local Voice Remains Vital

(NUI) - For local government leaders concerned about the future of our national transportation system, a law called ISTEA - pronounced "ice tea" - has proven to be a refreshing change.

The Intermodal Surface Transportation Act (ISTEA) includes an essential role for local government leaders in determining how best to meet local transportation needs.

The current law, enacted in 1991, expires on Sept. 30, and local officials are concerned that they may lose their voices in shaping transportation priorities. "This is a crucial issue for cities, and the value of local input clearly makes sense," says Mark Schwartz, president of the National League of Cities (NLC) and a councilmember of Oklahoma City.

During the past seven years, ISTEA has directed more than $23 billion a year in federal funds to state and local governments to invest in partnerships to solve surface transportation problems. If this relationship does not continue, Schwartz says, "all of our cities will be the lesser for it."

Some ISTEA success stories:

* In Houston, a project called TranStar operates a computerized transportation system that has helped improve air quality and minimize the need for additional road construction.

* A demonstration project in Glendale, Calif., has increased average vehicle occupancy and improved air quality by emphasizing ridesharing incentives such as special carpool parking.

* In Chicago, a shuttle service promotes "reverse commuting" - by providing inner-city workers with access to suburban jobs.

And a new report on the economics of public transit calculates that transit systems in the U.S. produce big savings each year: $34 billion from greater efficiency in moving people and goods, along with big reductions in traffic congestion.

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