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State and Federal Policy

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In the United States, 80% of people live in cities and urbanized areas. Today, America’s cities and the people who live in them are struggling, and are facing the intertwined crises of a global pandemic, systemic racism, and accelerating climate change.

Transportation connects people to opportunities. Resetting our country’s transportation priorities has the promise to set the stage for a just, sustainable recovery. Here’s how we do it.

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NACTO’s US federal policy priorities

Concrete actions that the Administration can take on days 1 through 100 

The Biden-Harris Administration inherited the country’s largest-scale disaster in nearly a century, and with it, a mandate to correct the mistakes of the past. 2020 exposed how our antiquated transportation policies and infrastructure exacerbated the effects of the pandemic, and how insufficient it would be to build back like before. The new administration must chart a new course for American mobility that puts people first.

See the concrete actions that the Administration can take on days 1 through 100, through executive actions and in partnership with Congress, to recover from the worst crisis our cities have seen in generation.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the part of USDOT charged with motor vehicle safety standards. It has broad authority to regulate the design and technology used in motor vehicles sold in the United States.
Read NACTO’s recommendations for reforms to NHTSA safety regulations >>


A once-in-five-year opportunity to rethink America’s transportation program

The FAST Act, the current federal transportation law, directs $50 billion in annual transportation spending, and governs nearly every aspect of U.S. transportation policy. This bill will expire in September 2021, offering a once-in-a-five-year opportunity to reset the country’s transportation priorities.

By passing a new, transformative bill, Congress could:

  • End the epidemic of traffic deaths on the country’s streets, through thoughtful investments in safer infrastructure for all road users.
  • Put the majority of Americans within reach of reliable, frequent transit, providing convenient, low-cost, and low-carbon access to jobs, education, and essential amenities.
  • Remedy the long legacy of racial injustice in transportation and make critical investments in communities harmed or neglected by past planning decisions.
  • Ensure the timely implementation of projects that create local jobs while advancing safety, sustainability, and equity goals.
  • Bring project decisions closer to taxpayers, at the local level.

Read NACTO’s Priorities for the 2021 Surface Transportation Bill (pdf) >>

Ensure transit is there for 2.8 million essential workers today, and for cities’ economic recovery in the future 

Every day, 2.8 million essential workers take transit to reach their jobs, and yet, our nation’s transit agencies are in an existential crisis. Even as transit revenue from fares and taxes has declined, transit agencies are spending more to ensure that buses, train cars, and stations are well-ventilated and sanitized, that workers have PPE, and that service is frequent enough to promote social distancing.

For the people and cities who rely on this essential service, Congress must provide direct support—the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) has identified a need for $39.3 billion in additional assistance for transit agencies to cover projected funding shortfalls through 2023. Our lives today, and the future strength of our communities, depend on it. Without transit, we risk our recovery.

Give cities the authority they need to build responsive, impactful, and multimodal projects

Safe, convenient, and reliable transportation is the bedrock of a functioning city. Despite this, cities are not in control of their own transportation funding, and decisions that affect their residents are made outside of local hands.

For  cities to achieve the best outcomes for their residents, Congress must empower cities in the following ways:

  • Cities need authority to direct funding to their priorities;
  • Cities need authority to approve or prevent project designs and construction of projects in their jurisdiction;
  • Cities need should have access to the same accelerated project delivery processes as states;
  • Cities need a mechanism to participate in decisions about projects located outside their jurisdiction but that impact them.

Read NACTO and Transportation for America’s policy proposals to ensure federal transportation funding meets local needs (pdf) >>

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Policy Priorities

2021 Priorities for the New Administration and Congress

Priorities for Federal Design Guidance:

NACTO’s Policy Platform:

  1. Eliminate traffic fatalities by making safety transportation’s top priority.
  2. End the racist legacy of transportation policy and planning and build an equitable, accessible transportation system.
  3. Prioritize and expand transit to meet the nation’s current and future mobility needs.
  4. Lead the transition to a low-carbon transportation system.
  5. Modernize transportation funding.
  6. Enable local control over project selection and development.
  7. Research and leverage emerging technologies to advance public policy priorities.

See the full 2021 NACTO policy platform (pdf) >

Letters to Congress

City Letter on Federal Transportation Funding (5/19/2021)
Joint Letter on Transit Policy Priorities from Alliance for a Just Society, NACTO, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Transportation for America (4/13/2021)
Thank you to Congress for the American Rescue Plan (3/17/2021)
Relief for Cities, Democratic Leadership (2/11/2021)
Relief for Cities, Republican Leadership (2/11/2021)
Thank you to House Democrats for Supporting Transit in the COVID Relief Bill (10/1/2020)
Federal Support for Transit (7/31/2020)
Support for the INVEST Act (6/17/2020)
Federal Support for Cities (4/2/2020)
Transportation and Climate (11/22/2019)

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Build Back Better with More Bus Service (6/1/2021)
Making Federal Funding Work for Cities (5/26/2021)

NACTO Programs

Modernizing Federal Standards: Making the MUTCD Work for Cities

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