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Huge Federal Transportation Law Heading for Reauthorization

Halfway through the five-year Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), Erich Zimmermann laid out the challenges and changes ahead for reauthorization of the $1.2-trillion program to the NJTPA Board of Trustees.

Zimmermann, executive director of the National Association of Regional Councils (NARC), spoke before the Board during its bi-monthly meeting on March 11. The Washington, D.C.-based member organization includes regional councils, councils of governments (COGs), regional planning and development agencies, and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), and advocates for regional cooperation to address planning and development.

National Association of Regional Councils Executive Director Erich Zimmermann speaks to the NJTPA Board during its March 11 meeting.“The tide in D.C. is starting to turn already, from focus on implementation to reauthorization," he said, noting that May 2024 is the halfway mark of the IIJA. “We’re facing a more interesting reauthorization than we usually do.”  
The sheer size of the bill “makes it a different beast when we’re typically just talking about transportation,” he said, as the breadth of the program extends well beyond transportation. There will be big questions about which pieces of the IIJA are going to be preserved and which might be forgone.

Going forward, Zimmermann suggested shifting some discretionary programs into formula programs. “We're big proponents of formula funding, where money goes out and everybody across the nation gets some funding for whatever particular program,” he said.

While there are worthy discretionary grant programs, there are some challenges that come with those grants, including expensive and cumbersome application processes, he said. "At the end of the day, when you have an expensive application process, communities that are less resourced are going to have a harder time succeeding,” he said.

He held up Safe Streets and Roads For All as an example of a discretionary grant that could become a formula program, where funding goes directly to local entities to meet safety needs. “We need to continue to not only bolster that but expand it, so everyone’s getting a piece of that pie, not just those that are able to get through the discretionary grant process,” Zimmermann said.

“One thing we're going to need to do to show Congress we can support robust programs going forward is really accentuating the wins that came out of IIJA and that will continue to come out of this program.” 

A recording of the March 11 Board of Trustees meeting can be accessed here
Posted: 3/13/2024 1:59:25 PM by Mark Hrywna | with 0 comments