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United States Government Accountability Office:
GAO:

Highlights Of A Forum:

Convened by the Comptroller General of the United States:

Transforming Transportation Policy for the 21st Century:

GAO-07-1210SP:

GAO Highlights:

Highlights of GAO-07-1210SP, a GAO forum.

Why GAO Convened This Forum:

The nationís economic vitality and the quality of life of its citizens 
depend significantly on the security, availability, and dependability 
of its transportation network. The nationís transportation network 
presents particularly complex policy challenges, because it encompasses 
many modes on systems owned, funded, and operated by both the public 
and the private sectors. As the August collapse of a bridge span in 
Minneapolis illustrated, policymakers currently face the challenge of 
maintaining the safety and condition of the transportation networkóin a 
time of increasing fiscal constraint. Addressing these challenges 
requires a fundamental reexamination and transformation of the nationís 
transportation policies and programs.

This forum brought together government, academic, and transportation 
industry experts, along with GAOís own transportation specialists. The 
discussion addressed (1) the appropriate goals for the nationís 
transportation policy, (2) the role of the federal government in 
achieving transportation goals, (3) how transportation goals might be 
financed, and (4) next steps in transforming transportation policy for 
the 21st century. These highlights do not necessarily represent the 
views of any one participant or the organizations that these 
participants represent, including GAO.

What Participants Said:

Participants said that the nationís transportation policy has lost 
focus and that the nationís overall transportation goals need to be 
better defined and linked to performance measures that evaluate what 
the respective policies and programs actually accomplish. They noted 
that as the federal share of total transportation spending continues to 
decline, it has become increasingly important that federal 
transportation policy goals and their link to local decision making and 
spending be well defined. Further, according to participants, measured 
outcomes, or performance results, should be used to drive federal 
transportation policy and funding decisions. Participants indicated 
that enhancing mobility and maintaining global competitiveness are the 
most important goals for the nationís transportation policy.

Participants said that the federal governmentís role should focus on 
the policy side of transportationóestablishing policy, providing 
guidance for executing policy, and supporting local and regional 
investments that correspond with federal policy goals. Additionally, 
the federal government has an important role to play in the movement of 
goods because of the impact on the national and global economies. They 
noted ways that the federal government could encourage transportation 
decisions that are consistent with national transportation goals by, 
for example, developing and using incentives and strengthening the user-
pay principle. 

Participants generally agreed that there is a need to address 
transportation funding immediately, and no single mechanism will solve 
the existing and future funding crisis facing the nationís 
transportation system. Potential approaches identified by participants 
include levying new taxes, implementing tolls, and utilizing congestion 
pricing strategies. However, participants acknowledged potential 
drawbacks to several of the funding mechanisms that were identified, 
such as a lack of public support for tolling and equity concerns with 
certain pricing mechanisms.

There was broad consensus among participants on the need for a 
transformation of our current approach to transportation policy to 
better meet current and future mobility needs in a strategic, 
integrated, and sustainable manner. For a successful transformation, 
participants said it is necessary to develop a constituency that will 
push for and support change. Participants said that there is a need to 
educate and influence both political leaders and the broader public 
because transportation is not currently perceived as a significant 
national problem. The public and private sectors need to better 
understand the magnitude and consequences of these transportation 
challenges to be motivated to change the status quo. Additionally, 
participants stated that local transportation initiatives underway may 
offer lessons on how to build the consensus needed to address todayís 
transportation challenges.

[hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-1210SP].

To view the full product, including the scope and methodology, click on 
the link above. For more information, contact JayEtta Hecker at (202) 
512-8984 or heckerj@gao.gov.

[End of section]

Contents:

Letter:

Introduction from the Comptroller General of the United States:

Participants Said That the Nation's Transportation Policy Goals Need 
Clarification and Measured Outcomes:

According to Participants, the Federal Government Should Establish 
Policy and Encourage Decisions Consistent with Policy and Goals:

Participants Said There Is No "Silver Bullet" for Transportation 
Financing Crisis:

Increased Consensus and Public Engagement Is Required to Transform 
Transportation Policy, According to Participants:

Concluding Observations:

Appendix I: List of Participants:

Appendix II: Forum Agenda:

Appendix III: GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments:

Related GAO Products:

Financing the Nation's Transportation System:

Improving Mobility:

Improving Transportation Safety:

Managing the Transition to the Next Generation Air Transportation 
System:

Building Human Capital Strategies:

Fostering Improved Financial Management:

Improving Transportation Security and Emergency Preparedness and 
Response:

Table:

Table 1: DOT's Strategic Objectives:

Figures:

Figure 1: Participant Survey Responses of the Most Important 
Transportation Policy Goals:

Figure 2: Participant Responses to Survey Question about Financing 
Mechanisms:

[End of section]

United States Government Accountability Office:
Washington, DC 20548:

Introduction from the Comptroller General of the United States:

The nation's economic vitality and the quality of life of its citizens 
depend significantly on the availability, dependability, and security 
of its transportation network. For the past several decades, 
population, income levels, and economic activity have risen 
considerably, and with them have come considerable increases in travel 
demand. Transportation infrastructure has not kept pace. The result is 
apparent: increasing number of hours spent inching along clogged and 
deteriorating roads and highways, especially at rush hours and other 
times of peak demand. The economic implications are significant, 
ranging from wasted time and fuel as cars idle in traffic to increased 
costs for business as the unreliability of the systems grows. In 
addition to burdening the economy, congestion can also harm the 
environment and the health of the nation's citizenry--for example, 
through increased emissions from idling and slow-moving cars.

The nation's transportation network presents particularly complex 
policy challenges, because it encompasses many modes--air, water, 
highway, transit, and rail--on systems owned, funded, and operated by 
both the public and the private sectors. Furthermore, transportation 
decisions are inextricably linked with economic, environmental, and 
energy policy concerns. Addressing these challenges requires strategic 
and intermodal approaches, effective tools and programs, and 
coordinated solutions involving all levels of government and the 
private sector.[Footnote 1] Yet in many cases, the government is still 
trying to do business in ways that are based on conditions, priorities, 
and approaches that were established decades ago and are not well 
suited to addressing 21st century challenges. Addressing these 
challenges requires a fundamental reexamination of the nation's 
transportation policies and programs.

Part of this reexamination involves exploring the existing 
transportation programs and commitments, and determining whether these 
remain the best approaches for the future. We have previously reported 
on the following factors that highlight the need for transformation of 
the nation's transportation policy.

* Future demand for transportation will strain the network. Projected 
population growth, technological changes, and increased globalization 
are expected to increase the strain on the nation's transportation 
system. For example, according to the Transportation Research Board, an 
expected population increase of 100 million by 2040 could more than 
double the demand for passenger travel. Moreover, this population 
growth will be concentrated in certain regions and states, intensifying 
the demand for transportation in these areas.[Footnote 2] Likewise, 
freight traffic is projected to grow substantially, putting additional 
strain on ports, highways, railroads, and airports. Increasing 
congestion and unreliable transportation systems can have severe 
economic and environmental consequences. Congestion across modes-- 
estimated to cost roughly $200 billion per year--is significant and 
projected to worsen.

* National transportation goals and priorities are difficult to 
discern. Federal transportation statutes and regulations establish 
multiple, and sometimes conflicting, goals and outcomes for federal 
programs. For example, safety, travel-time savings, reduction of 
environmental impacts, security, economic development, and reliability 
are all statutorily defined factors for consideration in transportation 
planning and project development. However, federal transportation 
funding is not linked to system performance or to the accomplishment of 
goals or outcomes. Further, we have found that formal analyses often 
are not used in deciding among alternative projects, projects often do 
not meet anticipated outcomes, and evaluations of outcomes are 
typically not conducted.[Footnote 3] Without links between specific 
performance-related outcomes and federal grant funding levels there is 
little assurance that the projects selected and funded best meet the 
nation's most critical but undefined mobility needs. Furthermore, most 
federal highway grant funds are apportioned to state and local 
governments by formula, without regard to the needs, performance, 
capacity, or level of effort of recipients.

* The federal government's role is often indirect. DOT implements 
national transportation policy and administers most federal 
transportation programs. Its responsibilities are considerable and 
reflect the extraordinary scale, use, and impact of the nation's 
transportation systems. While the department carries out some 
activities directly, such as air traffic control, it does not have 
direct control over the vast majority of the activities that it funds, 
such as local decisions on the priority of transportation projects. 
Additionally, DOT's framework of separate modal administrations makes 
it difficult for intermodal projects to be integrated into the 
transportation network. Further, while passenger and freight travel 
occurs on many different modes, federal funding and planning 
requirements focus largely on highways, transit, and aviation passenger 
travel. As a result, projects focused on the movement of freight--key 
to the efficient movement of goods and helping ensure that American 
products remain competitive in global markets--often encounter 
difficulties in accessing federal, state, and local funding sources. 
Unless major modes--air, water, highway, transit, and rail--are well 
integrated it is unlikely that mobility can be enhanced.[Footnote 4]

* Transportation funding has not kept up with demand. Revenues from 
traditional funding mechanisms will be unable to keep pace at current 
tax rates, and the nation's long-term fiscal challenges constrain 
decision makers' ability to use other revenue sources for 
transportation needs. For example, within the Highway Trust Fund--the 
major source of federal highway and transit funding--revenues are 
eroding with inflation. Additionally, funding authorized in the 
recently enacted highway and transit program legislation is expected to 
outstrip the growth in trust fund receipts. According to recent 
estimates from the Congressional Budget Office and the President's 
budget, the trust fund balance will steadily decline and reach a 
negative balance of more than $14 billion by the end of fiscal year 
2012[Footnote 5]. Further, according to DOT, investment by all levels 
of government remains well below the estimated amount needed to 
maintain the condition of the nation's highway and transit systems. As 
a result, the overall performance of the network is declining as 
exemplified by the Minneapolis, Minnesota bridge collapse that occurred 
in August 2007. As a result of these concerns, GAO designated financing 
the nation's transportation infrastructure as a high-risk issue this 
year[Footnote 6].

In recognition of these and other issues, GAO and others have 
highlighted the need for a new approach to transportation policy. These 
include suggestions for systemic changes to the way transportation 
policies are designed and implemented, such as focusing policy on 
economic prosperity for the nation, adopting a systems perspective 
(rather than modal), and more effectively integrating priorities across 
levels of government.[Footnote 7] Further, experts have suggested that 
addressing the challenges facing transportation policy in the 21st 
century without worsening other problems will require simultaneous 
attention to such issues as mobility, safety, security, and 
environmental protection. However, the slow and often cumbersome 
decision-making process for transportation investments, a lack of 
consensus on what investments should be made, and a decline in federal 
funding and control of transportation infrastructure make transforming 
the nation's transportation policy a complex undertaking.

GAO convened this forum on May 23, 2007, to help address the challenges 
facing transportation policy in the 21st century. The forum brought 
together government, academic, and transportation industry experts, 
along with GAO's own transportation specialists. The forum's purpose 
was to build knowledge and to support policymakers by identifying 
transportation-related issues and strategies that could improve 
government performance in an environment of increasing congestion and 
severe fiscal restraint. The discussion addressed (1) the appropriate 
goals for the nation's transportation policy, (2) the role of the 
federal government in achieving national transportation goals, (3) how 
the transportation network might be financed to meet these goals, and 
(4) the next steps in transforming the nation's transportation policy. 
(See app. I for a list of forum participants and app. II for the 
forum's agenda.) This forum was designed for the participants to 
discuss these issues openly, without individual attribution, in order 
to facilitate a rich and substantive discussion of these issues.

This report summarizes the ideas and themes that emerged at the forum, 
the collective discussion of participants, and comments received from 
participants based on a draft of this report. The report also presents 
the results of a survey that we sent to each participant prior to the 
forum. The survey was intended to solicit participant opinion on the 
forum discussion topics and the results of the survey were presented 
during the forum to help stimulate discussion. Twenty of the 22 
participants completed the survey. The highlights summarized in this 
report do not necessarily represent the views of any individual 
participant or the organizations that these participants represent, 
including GAO.

I want to thank all the forum participants for taking the time to share 
their knowledge, insights, and perspectives. We at GAO will benefit 
from these insights as we carry out our work for the Congress and the 
country. I look forward to working with the forum's participants on 
this and other issues of mutual interest and concern in the future.

Signed by:

David M. Walker: 
Comptroller General of the United States:

September 19, 2007:

[End of section]

Participants Said That the Nation's Transportation Policy Goals Need 
Clarification and Measured Outcomes:

The nation's transportation policy has lost focus and national 
transportation goals need to be better defined and linked to 
performance measures that evaluate what the policy actually 
accomplishes. As the federal share of total transportation spending 
continues to decline, it has become increasingly important that federal 
transportation policy goals and their link to local decision making and 
spending be well defined. Further, measured outcomes, or performance 
results, should be used to drive federal transportation policy and 
funding decisions. Preforum survey results showed that participants 
rank enhancing mobility and maintaining global competitiveness as the 
most important goals for the nation's transportation policy. 
Additionally, DOT has identified its top priorities as safety, 
increasing mobility, and ensuring that the nation's transportation 
network enables economic growth and development.

Federal Transportation Policy Is Unclear:

Participants generally agreed that federal transportation policy has 
lost its focus. Current federal policy goals can be contradictory and 
not well linked to incentives for local decision makers, according to 
participants. For example, one participant suggested that it would be 
reasonable for state departments of transportation (DOT) to favor the 
use of large, fuel-inefficient vehicles because higher gas consumption 
would mean more fuel tax revenue for the state, even though this goal 
would be inconsistent with goals for energy efficiency. There was 
general agreement that transportation policy needs to ensure that the 
various types of goals--mobility, energy, environmental, safety, and 
security--are aligned. Participants said the federal government has a 
primary role in creating such a policy framework for transportation 
investments and systems.

While participants cited the importance of the federal government in 
shaping a transportation framework, they also said the current federal 
structure, with its modal administrations and stovepiped programs and 
funding, frequently inhibits consideration of a range of transportation 
options at both the regional and the national levels. This current 
federal structure has resulted in a noticeable shift by the public to 
focus on finding transportation solutions and additional transportation 
funding at the regional and local levels. Participants commented that 
states not only implement transportation programs, but, absent clear 
federal transportation goals, have considerable flexibility in how 
transportation dollars are used. This can result in little assurance 
that the projects selected and funded best meet critical but undefined 
national mobility needs.

Participants said that measured performance results should be used to 
drive decisions about transportation policy and funding, but they also 
agreed there is currently no mechanism to evaluate transportation 
policy effectiveness or execution. Although the Safe, Accountable, 
Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users 
(SAFETEA-LU), the current transportation authorizing legislation, 
contained transportation goals for states and metropolitan planning 
organizations, it falls short in administering the goals from the 
federal level, according to participants. Thus, participants emphasized 
that the federal government needs to invest in performance measures to 
be able to determine outcomes of its policies. Participants also said 
that the federal government, through authorizing statutes such as 
SAFETEA-LU or other means, needs to provide local transportation 
agencies with the tools for assembling transportation plans and 
assessing the performance of their systems. Prioritized goals and 
performance measures can be used on the local level to analyze and 
compare transportation alternatives and to make transportation 
decisions based on national as well as local priorities.

Most Participants Identified Enhancing Mobility and Maintaining Global 
Competitiveness as Key Federal Transportation Goals:

Prior to the forum, we surveyed the participants, asking them to 
evaluate, from the federal perspective, the importance of various 
transportation goals including enhancing the mobility of people and 
goods; promoting local and regional economic development; maintaining 
global competitiveness; minimizing adverse environmental impacts of the 
transportation system; encouraging certain land use patterns; improving 
transportation safety; and facilitating the security of all 
transportation modes. The participants indicated that for them the two 
most important goals for the nation's transportation policy were 
enhancing the mobility of people and goods and maintaining global 
competitiveness (see fig.1). Improving transportation safety, 
minimizing adverse environmental impacts of the transportation system, 
and facilitating transportation security were also ranked as very 
important goals by a majority of participants. The lowest-rated goals 
for the nation's transportation policy were encouraging certain land 
use patterns and promoting local and regional economic development.

In discussing the survey results at the forum, the participants again 
emphasized the appropriateness of enhancing mobility and maintaining 
global competitiveness as goals of the nation's transportation policy, 
noting that it is particularly challenging to address these goals from 
the local level. Several participants also stated that the nation's 
transportation policy should recognize emerging conditions such as 
reducing fuel dependence and minimizing the impact of the 
transportation system on global climate change. In contrast, other 
participants noted that the nation's transportation policy is too blunt 
an instrument to use in encouraging regional economic development, 
which therefore should not be included as a goal of national policy.

Figure 1: Participant Survey Responses of the Most Important 
Transportation Policy Goals:

Policy Goals: Enhancing mobility;
One of the most important policy goals: 14;
Very important policy goal: 4.

Policy Goals: Global competitiveness;
One of the most important policy goals: 13;
Very important policy goal: 5.

Policy Goals: Safety;
One of the most important policy goals: 7;
Very important policy goal: 10.

Policy Goals: Environmental impacts;
One of the most important policy goals: 6;
Very important policy goal: 10.

Policy Goals: Security;
One of the most important policy goals: 5;
Very important policy goal: 10.

Policy Goals: Economic development;
One of the most important policy goals: 6;
Very important policy goal: 5.

Policy Goals: Land use;
One of the most important policy goals: 3;
Very important policy goal: 5.

[See PDF for image]

Source: GAO.

Note: Twenty of 22 participants responded to our survey.

[End of figure]

Goals Participants Identified for the Nation's Transportation Policy 
Generally Coincide with DOT's Strategic Objectives:

Similar to the goals that the participants identified in the survey and 
through discussion, DOT has outlined five objectives in its strategic 
plan including safety, mobility, and global connectivity (see table 1). 
Although DOT has not prioritized these objectives, officials have said 
that safety should be the department's top priority. Participants noted 
that enhancing transportation safety has the potential for great 
economic gains for the nation. One participant said that each year tens 
of thousands of people are killed and millions are injured in 
transportation accidents in the United States, resulting in huge losses 
of economic productivity as well as enormous costs to the medical 
system. Additionally, currently there are few links between 
transportation expenditures and safety outcomes, but such links are 
needed, according to participants. Several participants pointed out 
that transportation accidents and safety issues are viewed as solvable 
problems in other countries, and the United States needs to take a 
different approach to safety, one in which the federal government is 
held accountable for results. The participants noted that the strategic 
objectives of DOT should be distinguished from the nation's larger 
transportation policy goals, although DOT is the primary mechanism 
through which transportation policy can be administered.

Table 1: DOT's Strategic Objectives:

Strategic objective: Safety;
Description: Enhance public health and safety by working toward the 
elimination of transportation-related deaths and injuries; 

Strategic objective: Mobility; 
Description: Advance accessible, efficient, intermodal transportation 
for the movement of people and goods. 

Strategic objective: Global connectivity;
Description: Facilitate a more efficient domestic and global 
transportation system that enables economic growth and development;

Strategic objective: Environmental stewardship;
Description: Promote transportation solutions that enhance communities 
and protect the natural and built environment. 

Strategic objective: Security;
Description: Balance homeland and national security transportation 
requirements with the mobility needs of the nation for personal travel 
and commerce. 

Source: Department of Transportation Strategic Plan 2003-2008, 
September 2003. 

[End of table]

According to Participants, the Federal Government Should Establish 
Policy and Encourage Decisions Consistent with Policy and Goals:

The federal government's role should focus on the policy side of 
transportation, establishing policy, providing guidance for executing 
policy, and supporting local and regional investments that correspond 
with federal policy goals. Additionally, the federal government has an 
important role to play in the movement of goods because of the impact 
on the national and global economies. Participants noted ways that the 
federal government could encourage transportation decisions that are 
consistent with national transportation goals by, for example, 
including using incentives and strengthening the user-pay principle. 
Preforum survey results and forum discussions showed support for 
federal involvement in other, more specific, areas as well, such as 
improving national transportation data and research.

Federal Government's Role Should Focus on Establishing and Supporting 
National Transportation Policy, Including Goods Movement:

The federal government should focus on creating a planning framework 
for state and local decision making and an oversight mechanism for 
measuring goal performance, according to participants. In the previous 
century the nation's transportation policy was focused on building a 
vast and complex transportation infrastructure. Now, participants said, 
the federal and state transportation departments need to shift from a 
dominant emphasis on building to a complementary emphasis on managing 
this loosely connected system of modes. According to several 
participants, although the federal government has a minimal role in the 
direct oversight of transportation projects, it still has enormous 
leverage--over state and local agencies and the private sector--and 
needs to use it to achieve national transportation policy and goals.

The cost of moving goods affects the global competitiveness of the 
United States, and therefore requires federal attention, according to 
participants. Participants said that in order to stay competitive, the 
federal government needs to identify ways to maximize freight 
efficiency and develop incentives for doing so. Participants said that 
the negative impact of congestion is already affecting the nation's 
competitive edge, and in the future, the demand for movement of goods 
will grow in response to such factors as economic development in and 
growing trade with countries such as China and India. One participant 
said that while it is necessary to develop transportation 
infrastructure on a regional level, links between regions must also be 
forged for moving goods, and it is likely that the federal role will be 
key in doing so. Participants raised several examples of increased 
congestion in important transportation corridors due to cross-modal or 
cross-jurisdictional barriers. The ports of Miami and Newark were noted 
as examples of locations where congestion can be significant in moving 
large amounts of people and goods in and out of ports due to 
particularly poor connectivity of modes and coordination among the 
various stakeholders including the private sector as well as federal, 
state, county, and local government agencies.

Use Incentives to Encourage Transportation Decisions That Are 
Consistent with Nationally Defined Goals:

Participants said that the federal government should establish and use 
incentives to encourage state and local transportation agencies to act 
in accordance with better defined national policy goals. They agreed 
that transportation programs and funding need to be tied to incentives 
and identified outcomes--as opposed to the current structure of federal 
programs, which can function as revenue-sharing mechanisms (i.e., 
revenues are distributed among the states and projects are determined 
at the state or local levels). Participants suggested that by clearly 
defining national transportation goals and priorities and using 
incentives for other levels of government to contribute to those goals, 
the federal government can provide the political leadership that state 
and local agencies need to (1) implement projects with benefits that 
extend beyond their boundaries, and (2) more broadly apply new 
financing mechanisms such as congestion pricing. Moreover, participants 
noted, past experiences demonstrate that the incentives do not need to 
involve large sums of money to encourage state and local governments to 
act.

Participants pointed to cases in which using incentives and penalties 
have resulted in desired policy changes. For example, SAFETEA-LU 
established an incentive grant program to encourage states to pass 
primary safety belt laws.[Footnote 8] Since the law was signed, 3 
states have enacted primary safety belt laws,[Footnote 9] bringing the 
total number of such states to 25.[Footnote 10] Additionally, the 
federal government has used penalties to push for certain policy 
changes. For example, penalties were used to encourage states to 
implement a "zero tolerance" law which required states to enact and 
enforce laws making it illegal for drivers under age 21 to drive with a 
blood alcohol concentration of .02 percent or more. States were subject 
to the withholding of federal-aid highway funds for not implementing 
such a law beginning in 1999. All 50 states had established such laws 
by 1999.

Strengthen the User-Pay Principle:

Participants also stated that the federal government should strengthen 
and expand the user-pay principle. This principle--that users should 
pay for the infrastructure they use--is a long-standing tenet of 
transportation policy in the United States. For instance, federal, 
state, and local governments have imposed excise taxes on motor fuels 
and other taxes on inputs into driving, such as taxes on tires, and 
charged fares for transit. These taxes, in turn, may be used to pay for 
a variety of transportation projects. Participants pointed out that the 
public generally agrees that users should pay something commensurate 
with the costs to provide transportation services, but that pricing 
initiatives are often politically difficult for local agencies to 
implement--as demonstrated by the fact that only a handful of state and 
local governments have implemented various pricing strategies. One 
participant suggested that the user-pay principle should be considered 
a fundamental element of all federal programs and activities.

Participants Identified Other Roles for the Federal Government:

All participants responding to our preforum survey agreed that the 
federal government should have a role in minimizing adverse 
environmental impacts of the transportation system, improving safety, 
and facilitating the security of all modes. Additionally, our survey 
results showed that nearly all (19 of 20) participants agreed that the 
federal government should have a role in enhancing mobility and 
maintaining global competitiveness. Other roles for the federal 
government mentioned by participants included:

* Research and innovation. Several participants said that the federal 
government has a role in funding and developing research, technology, 
and innovation because it is difficult for local governments to fund 
these types of activities.

* Data collection. Most participants agreed that the federal government 
should have a primary role in improving data collection. Participants 
said that reliable and comprehensive national transportation data are 
necessary for planning, decision making, and performance evaluation.

Participants Said There Is No "Silver Bullet" for Transportation 
Financing Crisis:

There is a need to address transportation funding immediately, and no 
single mechanism will solve the existing and future funding crisis 
facing the nation's transportation system. Potential mechanisms 
identified by participants include increasing existing or levying new 
taxes, implementing tolling mechanisms and other user fees, instituting 
congestion pricing, and offering incentives. Our preforum survey 
results also showed support for a variety of other funding mechanisms, 
though none of the options were highly recommended by a majority of 
participants. Additionally, participants cited drawbacks to several of 
the mechanisms that were raised.

Various Funding Mechanisms Will Need to Be Used:

Participants generally agreed that it will take a variety of funding 
mechanisms to address projected transportation financing shortfalls. 
They said that the size and nature of the funding problems facing the 
transportation system simply cannot be solved by one approach. 
Participants suggested a number of user fee strategies, describing them 
as generally inexpensive to administer, although participants noted 
that restrictive federal policies can prevent state and local agencies 
from adopting them. In particular, participants generally agreed that 
pricing mechanisms, such as congestion pricing, show a great deal of 
promise and should be pursued. Participants said that the federal 
government needs to use its leverage with state and local 
transportation agencies to support the implementation of pricing 
initiatives, which some localities and regions currently are studying 
or interested in adopting. In general, participants agreed that 
whatever financing options are pursued, investments need to seek to 
align fees and taxes with use and benefits and be better linked to 
performance of all aspects of the transportation system including 
highways, transit, parking, and pedestrians.

A variety of funding mechanisms were suggested by participants, 
including:

* Taxes. Tax options raised by participants included increasing or 
utilizing property taxes, fuel taxes, or income taxes, as well as 
implementing a carbon tax. Participants pointed out that the use of 
different types of tax options at the state and local levels has been 
growing recently, and that there has been increasing acceptance of tax 
strategies by the public in cases where the resulting transportation 
benefits are well understood.

* Congestion pricing. Participants also supported congestion pricing, 
which attempts to influence driver behavior by charging drivers higher 
prices during peak hours. However, participants noted that few states 
have actually implemented congestion pricing or other pricing 
techniques, which, they suggested, likely reflects initial public and 
political opposition to such proposals. The most common form of 
congestion pricing in the United States is high-occupancy toll (HOT) 
lanes, which are priced lanes that offer drivers of vehicles that do 
not meet the occupancy requirements the option of paying a toll to use 
lanes that are otherwise restricted for high-occupancy 
vehicles.[Footnote 11]

* Tolling. Participants said that tolling can be a good option because 
it brings in new sources of revenues, and as noted above, can help 
influence driver behavior and increase efficiency in resource 
allocation. Tolls can generate revenues that are consistent with the 
user-pay principle because the driver is directly paying to use the 
specific road and the revenues collected from the toll can go directly 
to pay for the road's construction, maintenance, and operation.

* Public-private partnerships. Participants said that developing 
partnerships with private industry to help fund transportation projects 
can offer a number of benefits for transportation agencies, such as 
expediting project schedules, reducing costs, and providing access to 
private funding sources.[Footnote 12]

* Other user fees. Participants generally agreed that user fees are a 
good tool when levied on transportation, but emphasized the importance 
of dedicating the revenues raised to transportation. Participants also 
noted that DOT is encouraging user fees on the regional and local 
levels, and supported this effort.

Our preforum survey results anticipated the forum discussion. In our 
preforum survey, participants recommended that the federal government 
support a variety of transportation financing mechanisms including 
better aligning taxes with the costs of the system, indexing the 
federal motor vehicle tax to inflation, and encouraging the increased 
use of toll roads. Participants were asked to indicate the extent to 
which they recommended these financing mechanisms as viable strategies 
to address the nation's transportation financing challenges and all of 
the mechanisms were recommended to some degree by nearly all 
participants. Each financing mechanism listed in the survey was 
recommended "to a great extent" by at least four participants (see fig. 
2).

Figure 2: Participant Responses to Survey Question about Financing 
Mechanisms:

[Bar graph with nine horizontal bars representing the number of 
participant responses]:

Financing Options: Better align taxes with actual system cost;
Recommend to a great extent: 10;
Recommend to a moderate extent: 6.

Financing Options: Better utilize existing infrastructure;
Recommend to a great extent: 10;
Recommend to a moderate extent: 6.

Financing Options: Index federal motor vehicle tax to inflation;
Recommend to a great extent: 9;
Recommend to a moderate extent: 4.

Financing Options: Implement user fees;
Recommend to a great extent: 8;
Recommend to a moderate extent: 5.

Financing Options: Encourage congestion pricing;
Recommend to a great extent: 7;
Recommend to a moderate extent: 9.

Financing Options: Encourage toll roads;
Recommend to a great extent: 7;
Recommend to a moderate extent: 9.

Financing Options: Provide investment credits;
Recommend to a great extent: 6;
Recommend to a moderate extent: 9.

Financing Options: Eliminate Highway Trust Fund exemptions;
Recommend to a great extent: 5;
Recommend to a moderate extent: 5.

Financing Options: Encourage public private partnerships;
Recommend to a great extent: 4;
Recommend to a moderate extent: 10.

[See PDF for image]

Source: GAO.

Note: Twenty of 22 participants responded to our survey.

[End of figure]

Participants Offered a Few Caveats about Financing Mechanisms:

Although participants agreed that the nation must address the 
transportation financing crisis, they also discussed some of the 
drawbacks to implementing new financing approaches. Several 
participants commented that an increase in the current fuel tax alone 
would not be sufficient to solve the transportation financing crisis. 
Additionally, a number of participants stated that the rules governing 
public-private partnerships may need to be regulated or standardized. A 
few participants cautioned against any reliance or planned use of the 
general fund as a transportation financing approach, noting that the 
general fund will have little left after debt financing and Social 
Security payments.

Furthermore, participants raised concerns about the equity of pricing 
mechanisms. For example, one participant asked whether, when people 
move out of the city to avoid the increasing cost of living, is it fair 
to charge them (through pricing mechanisms) to come back into the city 
for employment? Another participant said that equity issues are also a 
concern associated with increasing taxes to support transportation, 
because such taxes place a disproportionate burden on lower income 
groups. Several participants noted that these concerns should not 
prevent the government from encouraging or pursuing them; rather, 
strategies to identify and compensate the affected groups of these 
funding mechanisms should be considered during policy development and 
implementation.

Participants agreed that the public and the private sectors need to be 
better informed of and better educated about available funding 
mechanisms. They said that there is currently a general lack of 
understanding about transportation financing and tolling. For example, 
the public often opposes tolls, believing that they have already paid 
for the roads through gas taxes although it is widely acknowledged that 
the gas tax has not kept pace with the costs of operating, maintaining, 
and improving the current system. In addition, according to 
participants, the public often sees tolls as merely collecting revenues 
and does not understand that they can be used to manage traffic and 
achieve environmental benefits.

Participants Provided Examples of Effective Pilot Projects:

Participants agreed that state and local governments' efforts to 
develop, test, and implement alternative financing mechanisms serve as 
an important test bed for identifying funding solutions for the 
nation's transportation financing crisis. Participants discussed 
Oregon's pilot project, the "Road User Fee Pilot Program," which tested 
a new road revenue system. The purpose of the program was to create and 
test a reliable, broad-based charge that would replace the fuel tax. 
The pilot project involved implementing an electronically collected 
mileage fee that assists in the management of road congestion levels. 
For example, the per-mile fee charged to drivers (at the gas pump as 
part of the fuel purchase) was greater for travel during rush hour than 
at off-peak travel times. One participant described this pilot pricing 
program as successful in altering driver behaviors and added that the 
program infrastructure allows for the easy implementation of additional 
pricing schemes.

Participants also identified the Dallas-Fort Worth region as an example 
of an urban area that is using a variety of management and pricing 
schemes to raise revenue and alter travel behaviors. The approaches 
being used included managing separate highway lanes for trucks and 
commuters, using public-private partnerships and more effective pricing 
mechanisms to reduce demand for single-occupancy travel and shift 
travel times away from peak periods, charging tolls for traffic coming 
into the urban area from the suburbs or rural areas, and flexing toll 
revenues to subsidize a regional rail system. Additionally, the region 
has plans to build new highways, convert existing highways to high- 
occupancy toll lanes, and build a regional rail system, according to 
participants. Several participants agreed that while these types of 
state and local projects are important, federal incentives are needed 
to encourage local leaders to invest not just in a single corridor, but 
in the national transportation network.

Increased Consensus and Public Engagement Is Required to Transform 
Transportation Policy, According to Participants:

While there is broad consensus among transportation experts of the need 
for a transformation of transportation policy to better meet current 
and future mobility needs, it is necessary to develop a constituency 
that will push for and support change. There is a need to educate and 
influence both political leaders and the broader public because 
transportation is not currently perceived as a significant national 
problem. The public and private sectors need to better understand the 
magnitude and consequences of these transportation challenges to be 
motivated to change the status quo. Additionally, local transportation 
initiatives underway may offer lessons on how to build consensus needed 
to address today's transportation challenges.

The Seriousness of the Problem Must Be Understood:

Participants said that the current system has a lot of supporters and 
there is not currently enough unrest about the issues facing 
transportation infrastructure to motivate change on a large scale. 
Educating the public, the Congress, the private sector, environmental 
groups, and regional leaders on the consequences of the nation's 
transportation problems is a key step to initiating change, according 
to participants. Participants said that the public, and others, are not 
connecting the efficiency of the transportation system with their 
overall quality of life. In addition, the message that transportation 
affects the global economy and is fundamental to the nation's economic 
success is currently not widely recognized. Users must be convinced 
that it is in their interest to move towards change. Several 
participants agreed that emphasizing the impending "crisis" related to 
transportation might create an opportunity for change. Along these 
lines, they suggested messages for the public and others such as:

* the current gas tax is insufficient for financing existing and new 
infrastructure;

* the "congestion crisis" may stifle productivity, economic growth, and 
the ability of the United States to remain competitive in a global 
economy; and:

* global climate change is a crisis linked to carbon dioxide and other 
greenhouse gas emissions.

The importance of an efficient national transportation system is not 
well understood, according to participants. They agreed that the 
competitive advantage of efficiently moving goods needs to be 
recognized and several mentioned that other countries, such as China, 
have invested in a global transportation framework in order to ensure 
that their economies are globally competitive. One participant 
suggested that business leaders can help lead the push for change; 
however, the private sector must have confidence that its investment 
will yield a return. For example, according to one participant, the 
private sector and others are willing to pay tolls for new 
infrastructure, but are likely to resist paying new tolls for existing 
roads and services unless they are being improved.

Local Initiatives Offer Opportunities for Innovative Solutions:

Participants agreed that states and some regions have demonstrated 
strong leadership by implementing innovative pilot projects designed to 
alleviate highway congestion and improve mobility. Additionally, 
participants said that regional sales taxes and other dedicated 
transportation taxes have encountered recent success in cases where 
clear transportation benefits are understood by constituencies. 
Participants said that the federal government should take a more active 
role in supporting these types of transportation initiatives at the 
state, regional, and local levels. They suggested, for example, that 
the federal government eliminate some authority over parts of the 
system and revisit existing statutory restrictions on certain 
activities such as tolling.

According to participants, while innovative local transportation 
initiatives are symptomatic of the current federal role in 
transportation, they also offer opportunities for the federal 
government to support transportation solutions that may be appropriate 
for replication on a larger scale. For example, funding solutions, such 
as congestion pricing, can be especially difficult to implement on the 
local level because of their inherently political nature. The federal 
government can provide "political cover" for state and local 
governments' initiatives. Such federal support is critical to moving 
promising local initiatives forward, according to participants.

Concluding Observations:

As we have previously reported and participants discussed throughout 
the forum sessions, the magnitude of the nation's transportation 
challenges calls for an urgent response, including a plan for the 
future. The current lack of clear national transportation goals, a 
blurred federal role in transportation, and the current funding crisis 
are transportation issues that need to be articulated to the American 
public in a way that can be understood. The nation's people and 
businesses will be faced with the negative impacts of these 
transportation challenges in the very near future. The federal role in 
transportation needs to be better defined and focused on clearer 
national transportation priorities. Options to address transportation 
funding in the future are available, but there is no silver bullet 
solution, and implementation can be politically difficult on both the 
national and local levels because transportation financing options are 
generally not well understood by the public or the private sector. GAO 
and others will continue to assist the Congress and DOT as the federal 
government works to develop a national transportation policy for the 
21st century that will improve the design of transportation programs, 
the delivery of services, and accountability for results.

[End of section]

Appendix I: List of Participants:

Moderator:
David M. Walker, U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Participants:
William Ankner, Transportation Solutions;
Anne Canby, Surface Transportation Policy Partnership;
Frank Chin, Citigroup;
Mortimer Downey, PB Consult Inc.;
Tom Downs, ENO Transportation Foundation;
Tyler Duvall, U.S. Department of Transportation;
Peter Goelz, O'Neil and Associates;
Mike Gray, Dell, Inc.;
Bill Johnson, Port of Miami;
Daniel Kaplan, LECG;
David Lewis, HDR, Inc.;
Rich Macias, Southern California Association of Governments;
Robert Martinez, Norfolk Southern Corporation;
Michael Meyer, Georgia Institute of Technology;
Norm Mineta, Hill & Knowlton, Inc.;
Michael Morris, North Central Texas Council of Governments;
Robert Poole, Reason Foundation;
Robert Puentes, Brookings Institution;
Michael Replogle, Environmental Defense;
Nancy Sparks, FedEx Express;
James Whitty, Oregon Department of Transportation.
Bob Yaro, Regional Planning Association.

[End of section]

Appendix II: Forum Agenda:

8:30: Check-in.

8:45: Welcome and introductory remarks; David M. Walker, Comptroller 
General of the United States.

9:15: Session 1: What are appropriate goals for the nation's 
transportation policy?.

10:30: Break.

10:45: Session 2: What is the role of the federal government in 
achieving these goals?.

12:00: Break.

12:15: Working lunch; Session 3: How can the transportation system be 
financed to meet these goals?.

1:30: Break.

1:45: Session 4: What steps need to be taken to transform the nation's 
transportation policy?.

3:00: Closing remarks; 
David M. Walker, Comptroller General; 
Pat Dalton, Managing Director, PI.

[End of section]

Appendix III: GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments:

GAO Contact:

JayEtta Z. Hecker, Director: 
(202) 512-8984:

Staff Acknowledgments:

In addition to the contact above, Nikki Clowers, Assistant Director, 
and Heather MacLeod managed all aspects of the work, and Jonathan 
Carver, Elizabeth Eisenstadt, Chir-Jen Huang, Sara Ann Moessbauer, 
Steven Putansu, Terry Richardson, Stan Stenersen, and Bethany Widick 
made important contributions to organizing the forum and producing this 
report.

[End of section]

Related GAO Products:

Financing the Nation's Transportation System:

Highway and Transit Investments: Flexible Funding Supports State and 
Local Transportation Priorities and Multimodal Planning. GAO-07-772. 
Washington, D.C.: July 26, 2007.

Federal Aviation Administration: Viability of Current Funding Structure 
for Aviation Activities and Observations on Funding Provisions of 
Reauthorization Proposals. GAO-07-1104T. Washington, D.C.: July 12, 
2007.

Airport Finance: Observations on Planned Airport Development Costs and 
Funding Levels and the Administration's Proposed Changes in the Airport 
Improvement Program. GAO-07-885. Washington, D.C.: June 29, 2007.

Airport Finance: Preliminary Analysis Indicates Proposed Changes in the 
Airport Improvement Program May Not Resolve Funding Needs for Smaller 
Airports. GAO-07-617T. Washington, D.C.: March 28, 2007.

Federal Aviation Administration: Observations on Selected Changes to 
FAA's Funding and Budget Structure in the Administration's 
Reauthorization Proposal. GAO-07-625T. Washington, D.C., March 21, 2007.

Performance and Accountability: Transportation Challenges Facing 
Congress and the Department of Transportation. GAO-07-545T. Washington, 
D.C.: March 6, 2007.

Intercity Passenger Rail: National Policy and Strategies Needed to 
Maximize Public Benefits from Federal Expenditures. GAO-07-15. 
Washington, D.C.: November 13, 2006.

Freight Railroads: Industry Health Has Improved, but Concerns about 
Competition and Capacity Should be Addressed. GAO-07-94. Washington, 
D.C.: October 6, 2006.

Aviation Finance: Observations on Potential FAA Funding Options. GAO- 
06-973. Washington, D.C.: September 29, 2006.

National Airspace System Modernization: Observations on Potential 
Funding Options for FAA and the Next Generation Airspace System. GAO- 
06-1114T. Washington, D.C.: September 27, 2006.

Highway Finance: States' Expanding Use of Tolling Illustrates Diverse 
Challenges and Strategies. GAO-06-554. Washington, D.C.: June 28, 2006.

Highway Trust Fund: Overview of Highway Trust Fund Estimates. GAO-06- 
572T. Washington, D.C.: April 4, 2006.

Federal Aviation Administration: An Analysis of the Financial Viability 
of the Airport and Airway Trust Fund. GAO-06-562T. Washington, D.C.: 
March 28, 2006.

Freight Transportation: Short Sea Shipping Option Shows Importance of 
Systematic Approach to Public Investment Decisions. GAO-05-768. 
Washington, D.C.: July 29, 2005.

Highlights of an Expert Panel: The Benefits and Costs of Highway and 
Transit Investments. GAO-05-423SP. Washington, D.C.: May 6, 2005.

Airport and Airway Trust Fund: Preliminary Observations on Past, 
Present, and Future. GAO-05-657T. Washington, D.C.: May 4, 2005.

Highway and Transit Investments: Options for Improving Information on 
Projects' Benefits and Costs and Increasing Accountability for Results. 
GAO-05-172. Washington, D.C.: January 24, 2005.

Federal-Aid Highways: Trends, Effect on State Spending, and Options for 
Future Program Design. GAO-04-802. Washington, D.C.: August 31, 2004.

Surface Transportation: Many Factors Affect Investment Decisions. GAO- 
04-744. Washington, D.C.: June 30, 2004.

Improving Mobility:

Public Transportation: Future Demand Is Likely for New Starts and Small 
Starts Programs, but Improvements Needed to the Small Starts 
Application Process. GAO-07-917. Washington, D.C.: July 27, 2007.

Surface Transportation: Strategies Are Available for Making Existing 
Road Infrastructure Perform Better. GAO-07-920. Washington, D.C.: July 
26, 2007.

Intermodal Transportation: DOT Could Take Further Actions to Address 
Intermodal Barriers. GAO-07-718. Washington, D.C.: June 20, 2007.

Public Transportation: Preliminary Analysis of Changes to and Trends in 
FTA's New Starts and Small Starts Programs. GAO-07-812T. Washington, 
D.C.: May 10, 2007.

Commercial Aviation: Programs and Options for Providing Air Service to 
Small Communities. GAO-07-793T. Washington, D.C.: April 25, 2007.

Transportation-Disadvantaged Populations: Actions Needed to Clarify 
Responsibilities and Increase Preparedness for Evacuations. GAO-07-44. 
Washington, D.C.: December 22, 2006.

Federal Transit Administration: Progress Made in Implementing Changes 
to the Job Access Program, but Evaluation and Oversight Processes Need 
Improvement. GAO-07-43. Washington, D.C.: November 17, 2006.

Intercity Passenger Rail: National Policy and Strategies Needed to 
Maximize Public Benefits from Federal Expenditures. GAO-07-15. 
Washington, D.C.: November 13, 2006.

Freight Railroads: Industry Health has Improved, but Concerns about 
Competition and Capacity Should be Addressed. GAO-07-94. Washington, 
D.C.: October 6, 2006.

Commercial Aviation: Programs and Options for the Federal Approach to 
Providing and Improving Air Service to Small Communities. GAO-06-398T. 
Washington, D.C.: September 14, 2006.

Public Transportation: New Starts Program is in a Period of Transition. 
GAO-06-819. Washington, D.C.: August 30, 2006.

Public Transportation: Preliminary Information on FTA's Implementation 
of SAFETEA-LU Changes. GAO-06-910T. Washington, D.C.: June 27, 2006.

Intermodal Transportation: Challenges to and Potential Strategies for 
Developing Improved Intermodal Capabilities. GAO-06-855T. Washington, 
D.C.: June 15, 2006.

Commuter Rail: Commuter Rail Issues Should Be Considered in Debate over 
Amtrak. GAO-06-470. Washington, D.C.: April 21, 2006.

Transportation Services: Better Dissemination and Oversight of DOT's 
Guidance Could Lead to Improved Access for Limited English-Proficient 
Populations. GAO-06-52. Washington, D.C.: November 2, 2005.

Intermodal Transportation: Potential Strategies Would Redefine Federal 
Role in Developing Airport Intermodal Capabilities. GAO-05-727. 
Washington, D.C.: July 26, 2005.

Federal-Aid Highways: FHWA Needs a Comprehensive Approach to Improving 
Project Oversight. GAO-05-173. Washington, D.C.: January 31, 2005.

Highway and Transit Investments: Options for Improving Information on 
Projects' Benefits and Costs and Increasing Accountability for Results. 
GAO-05-172. Washington, D.C.: January 24, 2005.

Federal-Aid Highways: Trends, Effect on State Spending, and Options for 
Future Program Design. GAO-04-802. Washington, D.C.: August 31, 2004.

Improving Transportation Safety:

Motor Carrier Safety: Preliminary Information on the Federal Motor 
Carrier Safety Administration's Efforts to Identify and Follow Up with 
High-risk Carriers. GAO-07-1074T. Washington, D.C.: July 11, 2007.

Motor Carrier Safety: A Statistical Approach Will Better Identify 
Commercial Carriers That Pose High Crash Risks Than Does the Current 
Federal Approach. GAO-07-585. Washington, D.C.: June 11, 2007.

Rail Safety: The Federal Railroad Administration Is Better Targeting 
Safety Risks, but Needs to Assess Results to Determine the Impact of 
Its Efforts. GAO-07-841T. Washington, D.C.: May 22, 2007.

Commercial Aviation: Potential Safety and Capacity Issues Associated 
with the Introduction of the New A380 Aircraft. GAO-07-483. Washington, 
D.C.: April 20, 2007.

Older Driver Safety: Knowledge Sharing Should Help States Prepare for 
Increase in Older Driver Population. GAO-07-413. Washington, D.C.: 
April 11, 2007.

Older Driver Safety: Survey of States on Their Implementation of 
Federal Highway Administration Recommendations and Guidelines, an E- 
Supplement. GAO-07-517SP. Washington, D.C.: April 11, 2007.

Aviation Safety: Improved Data Collection Needed for Effective 
Oversight of Air Ambulance Industry. GAO-07-353. Washington, D.C.: 
February 21, 2007.

Underinflated Tires in the United States. GAO-07-246R. Washington, 
D.C.: February 9, 2007.

Rail Safety: The Federal Railroad Administration is Taking Steps to 
Better Target Its Oversight, but Assessment of Results is Needed to 
Determine Impact. GAO-07-149. Washington, D.C.: January 26, 2007.

Aviation Safety: FAA's Safety Efforts Generally Strong but Face 
Challenges. GAO-06-1091T. Washington, D.C.: September 20, 2006.

Natural Gas Pipeline Safety: Integrity Management Benefits Public 
Safety, but Consistency of Performance Measures Should be Improved. GAO-
06-946. Washington, D.C.: September 8, 2006.

Natural Gas Pipeline Safety: Risk-Based Standards Should Allow 
Operators to Better Tailor Reassessments to Pipeline Threats. GAO-06- 
945. Washington, D.C.: September 8, 2006.

Truck Safety: Share the Road Safely Pilot Initiative Showed Promise, 
but the Program's Future Success Is Uncertain. GAO-06-916. Washington, 
D.C.: September 8, 2006.

Rail Transit: Additional Federal Leadership Would Enhance FTA's State 
Safety Oversight Program. GAO-06-821. Washington, D.C.: July 26, 2006.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration: Education and Outreach 
Programs Target Safety and Consumer Issues, but Gaps in Planning and 
Evaluation Remain. GAO-06-103. Washington, D.C.: December 19, 2005.

Large Truck Safety: Federal Enforcement Efforts Have Been Stronger 
Since 2000, but Oversight of State Grants Needs Improvement. GAO-06- 
156. Washington, D.C.: December 15, 2005.

Highway Safety: Further Opportunities Exist to Improve Data on Crashes 
Involving Commercial Motor Vehicles. GAO-06-102. Washington, D.C.: 
November 18, 2005.

Aviation Safety: FAA's Safety Oversight System is Effective but Could 
Benefit from Better Evaluation of Its Programs' Performance. GAO-06- 
266T. Washington, D.C.: November 17, 2005.

Aviation Safety: System Safety Approach Needs Further Integration into 
FAA's Oversight of Airlines. GAO-05-726. Washington, D.C.: September 
28, 2005.

Vehicle Safety: Opportunities Exist to Enhance NHTSA's New Car 
Assessment Program. GAO-05-370. Washington, D.C.: April 29, 2005.

Highway Safety: Improved Monitoring and Oversight of Traffic Safety 
Data Program are Needed. GAO-05-24. Washington, D.C.: November 4, 2004.

Managing the Transition to the Next Generation Air Transportation 
System:

Next Generation Air Transportation System: Status of the Transition to 
the Future Air Traffic Control System. GAO-07-784T. Washington, D.C.: 
May 7, 2007.

Joint Planning and Development Office: Progress and Key Issues in 
Planning the Transition to the Next Generation Air Transportation 
System. GAO-07-693T. Washington, D.C.: March 29, 2007.

Federal Aviation Administration: Key Issues in Ensuring the Efficient 
Development and Safe Operation of the Next Generation Air 
Transportation System. GAO-07-636T. Washington, D.C.: March 22, 2007.

Next Generation Air Transportation System: Progress and Challenges in 
Planning and Implementing the Transformation of the National Airspace 
System. GAO-07-649T. Washington, D.C.: March 22, 2007.

Federal Aviation Administration: Challenges Facing the Agency in Fiscal 
Year 2008 and Beyond. GAO-07-490T. Washington, D.C.: February 14, 2007.

Next Generation Air Transportation System: Progress and Challenges 
Associated with the Transformation of the National Airspace System. GAO-
07-25. Washington, D.C.: November 13, 2006.

Next Generation Air Transportation System: Preliminary Analysis of 
Progress and Challenges Associated with the Transformation of the 
National Airspace System. GAO-06-915T. Washington, D.C.: July 25, 2006.

Air Traffic Control Modernization: Status of the Current Program and 
Planning for the Next Generation Air Transportation System. GAO-06- 
653T. Washington, D.C.: June 21, 2006.

Next Generation Air Transportation System: Preliminary Analysis of the 
Joint Planning and Development Office's Planning, Progress, and 
Challenges. GAO-06-574T. Washington, D.C.: March 29, 2006.

National Airspace System: Transformation will Require Cultural Change, 
Balanced Funding Priorities, and Use of All Available Management Tools. 
GAO-06-154. Washington, D.C.: October 14, 2005.

National Airspace System: FAA Has Made Progress but Continues to Face 
Challenges in Acquiring Major Air Traffic Control Systems.  GAO-05-331. 
Washington, D.C.: June 10, 2005.

Federal Aviation Administration: Stronger Architecture Program Needed 
to Guide Systems Modernization Efforts. GAO-05-266. Washington, D.C.: 
April 29, 2005.

Building Human Capital Strategies:

Aviation Security: TSA's Staffing Allocation Model is Useful for 
Allocating Staff among Airports, but Its Assumptions Should be 
Systematically Reassessed. GAO-07-299. Washington, D.C.: February 28, 
2007.

Aviation Safety: FAA Management Practices for Technical Training Mostly 
Effective; Further Actions Could Enhance Results. GAO-05-728. 
Washington, D.C.: September 7, 2005.

Human Capital: Agencies Need Leadership and the Supporting 
Infrastructure to Take Advantage of New Flexibilities. GAO-05-616T. 
Washington, D.C.: April 21, 2005.

Federal-Aid Highways: FHWA Needs a Comprehensive Approach to Improving 
Project Oversight. GAO-05-173. Washington, D.C.: January 31, 2005.

Fostering Improved Financial Management:

FAA Budget Policies and Practices. GAO-04-841R. Washington, D.C.: July 
2, 2004.

Federal Aircraft: Inaccurate Cost Data and Weaknesses in Fleet 
Management Planning Hamper Cost Effective Operations. GAO-04-645. 
Washington, D.C.: June 18, 2004.

Improving Transportation Security and Emergency Preparedness and 
Response:

Aviation Security: Foreign Airport Assessments and Air Carrier 
Inspections Help Enhance Security, but Oversight of These Efforts Can 
Be Strengthened. GAO-07-729. Washington, D.C.: May 11, 2007.

Aviation Security: Federal Efforts to Secure U.S.-Bound Air Cargo Are 
in the Early Stages and Could Be Strengthened. GAO-07-660. Washington, 
D.C.: April 30, 2007.

Passenger Rail Security: Federal Strategy and Enhanced Coordination 
Need to Prioritize and Guide Security Efforts. GAO-07-583T. Washington, 
D.C.: March 7, 2007.

Highway Emergency Relief: Reexamination Needed to Address Fiscal 
Imbalance and Long-Term Sustainability. GAO-07-245. Washington, D.C.: 
February 23, 2007.

Passenger Rail Security: Federal Strategy and Enhanced Coordination 
Needed to Prioritize and Guide Security Efforts. GAO-07-459T. 
Washington, D.C.: February 13, 2007.

Aviation Security: Progress Made in Systematic Planning to Guide Key 
Investment Decisions, but More Work Remains. GAO-07-448T. Washington, 
D.C.: February 13, 2007.

Transportation-Disadvantaged Populations: Actions Needed to Clarify 
Responsibilities and Increase Preparedness for Evacuations. GAO-07-44. 
Washington, D.C.: December 22, 2006.

Passenger Rail Security: Evaluating Foreign Security Practices and Risk 
Can Help Guide Security Efforts. GAO-06-557T. Washington, D.C.: March 
29, 2006.

Undeclared Hazardous Materials: New DOT Efforts May Provide Additional 
Information on Undeclared Shipments. GAO-06-471. Washington, D.C.: 
March 29, 2006.

Passenger Rail Security: Enhanced Federal Leadership Needed to 
Prioritize and Guide Security Efforts. GAO-05-851. Washington, D.C.: 
September 9, 2005.

General Aviation Security: Increased Federal Oversight is Needed, but 
Continued Partnership with the Private Sector is Critical to Long-Term 
Success. GAO-05-144. Washington, D.C.: November 10, 2004.

Transportation Security: Federal Action Needed to Help Address Security 
Challenges. GAO-03-843. Washington, D.C.: June 30, 2003.

Transportation Security Research: Coordination Needed in Selecting and 
Implementing Infrastructure Vulnerability Assessments. GAO-03-502. 
Washington, D.C.: May 1, 2003.

[End of section]

FOOTNOTES

[1] See GAO, Performance and Accountability: Transportation Challenges 
Facing Congress and the Department of Transportation, GAO-07-545T 
(Washington, D.C.: Mar. 6, 2007); and 21st Century Challenges: 
Reexamining the Base of the Federal Government, GAO-05-325SP 
(Washington, D.C.: Feb. 1, 2005).

[2] Transportation Research Board, Critical Issues in Transportation 
(Washington, D.C.: 2006).

[3] GAO, Highway and Transit Investments: Options for Improving 
Information on Projects' Benefits and Costs and Increasing 
Accountability for Results, GAO-05-172 (Washington, D.C.: Jan. 24, 
2005).

[4] See GAO, Intermodal Transportation: DOT Could Take Further Actions 
to Address Intermodal Barriers, GAO-07-718 (Washington, D.C.: June 20, 
2007); Freight Railroads: Industry Health Has Improved, but Concerns 
about Competition and Capacity Should Be Addressed, GAO-07-94 
(Washington, D.C.: Oct. 6, 2006); Freight Transportation: Strategies 
Needed to Address Planning and Financing Limitations, GAO-04-165 
(Washington, D.C.: Dec. 19, 2003); Intermodal Transportation: 
Challenges to and Potential Strategies for Developing Improved 
Intermodal Capabilities, GAO-06-855T (Washington, D.C.: June 15, 2006); 
and Intermodal Transportation: Potential Strategies Would Redefine 
Federal Role in Developing Airport Intermodal Capabilities, GAO-05-727 
(Washington, D.C.: July 26, 2005).

[5] See GAO, Performance and Accountability: Transportation Challenges 
Facing Congress and the Department of Transportation, GAO-07-545T 
(Washington, D.C.: Mar. 6, 2007); and Highway Trust Fund: Overview of 
Highway Trust Fund Estimates, GAO-06-572T (Washington, D.C.: Apr. 4, 
2006).

[6] GAO, High Risk Series: An Update, GAO-07-310 (Washington, D.C.: 
Jan. 31, 2007).

[7] GAO, Surface Transportation: Strategies Are Available for Making 
Existing Road Infrastructure Perform Better, GAO-07-920 (Washington, 
D.C.: July 26, 2007).

[8] Primary enforcement seat belt laws allow police officers to stop 
vehicles and write citations whenever they observe violations of safety 
belt laws.

[9] According to the regulations, states that enact and enforce a 
primary safety belt use law are awarded a one-time grant award equal to 
475 percent of the amount apportioned to the state under section 402(c) 
for fiscal year 2003. Recipients are allowed to use the grant funds for 
a variety of highway or roadway safety purposes.

[10] DOT has also recently initiated the Urban Partnership Agreement, a 
program where DOT will support select metropolitan areas that agree to 
pursue combined strategies (tolling, transit, telecommuting, and 
technology) with a track record of effectiveness in reducing traffic 
congestion. DOT will offer financial resources (including some 
combination of grants, loans, and borrowing authority), regulatory 
flexibility, and dedicated expertise and personnel in support of its 
Urban Partners. 

[11] Also see GAO, Highway Finance: States' Expanding Use of Tolling 
Illustrates Diverse Challenges and Strategies, GAO-06-554 (Washington, 
D.C.: June 28, 2006).

[12] See our forthcoming report on public-private partnerships that is 
estimated to be published in the fall of 2007.

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