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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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Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act: Overview for Cities


On August 10, the Senate passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The $1 trillion bill covers many aspects of infrastructure, from transportation to water to broadband to electricity, with over $567 billion going to discretionary and formula programs under USDOT’s jurisdiction. Regarding surface transportation, the IIJA contains the Senate’s five-year Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act (STRA), made up of the EPW Committee’s highway title and the Commerce Committee’s rail title. Overviews of the highway and transit portions of the bill are below, with a focus on programs relevant to cities.

After passing the Senate, the IIJA faces a still-developing path in the House. Speaker Pelosi publicly committed to holding a vote on the physical infrastructure bill only after receiving a $3.5 trillion dollar supplemental reconciliation package from the Senate, which would fund healthcare, education, climate, and housing priorities. The Senate is currently considering a $3.5 trillion budget blueprint—the first step toward a bill.

Read more in our overview (pdf) >>

Competitive Grant and FHWA/FTA Formula Programs

The IIJA creates over $150 billion worth of discretionary grant programs, giving USDOT an extraordinary amount of power over where to direct these new funds. Charts in the overview outline the grant programs cities are eligible to apply for that align with NACTO policy priorities.

The infrastructure package contains $39 billion in new funding for transit. This is a $10 billion decrease from the amount in the original bipartisan framework but ultimately increases funding by $19 billion (43 percent) from levels authorized under the FAST Act. The IIJA largely continues policies enacted by the FAST Act, as the Senate Banking Committee did not put forward a new transit title this year.

Read more in the overview (pdf) >>

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Focus Areas

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) >>

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. The agency writes and adopts the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) and other regulations. It also encourages the collection of crash data through the Model Minimum Uniform Crash Criteria.

NHTSA’s approach to vehicle regulation needs to expand its scope from a limited consumer-protection approach to a holistic public health approach that protects all road users.

Traffic fatalities for vehicle occupants have largely held steady over the last decade, while traffic deaths for people outside of vehicles (pedestrians and bicyclists) have skyrocketed by more than 50% since 2009. Vehicle standards have failed to protect those outside of vehicles, resulting in thousands of preventable deaths each year. Especially in multimodal urban environments, vehicle design and regulation is critical to ensuring safe operations and movement.

Read NACTO’s recommendations for reforms to NHTSA safety regulations (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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Press & Statements

Press Releases & Statements

Good Things to Come: USDOT Funds Projects That Will Meaningfully Improve People’s Lives (11/19/2021)
A $1.2 trillion opportunity to address America’s safety, equity, and climate crises (11/16/2021)
Infrastructure funding provides an unprecedented opportunity to address America’s safety, equity, and climate crises (11/6/2021)
A turning point for America’s deadly roads? (10/28/2021)
Reconciliation: A last chance for transit, climate, and equity in America’s infrastructure program (9/15/2021)
Statement: The Senate’s Infrastructure Bill Allows for Unchecked Highway Expansion and Reverses Climate Action (8/10/2021)
A Deal for the Sake of a Deal? (7/28/2021)
Statement: NACTO commends House leaders for passing the transformative INVEST in America Act (7/1/2021)
America’s Infrastructure Plan: $527 billion to do what? (6/25/2021)
STATEMENT: The House gets it right: Proposed House transportation bill is the right direction for addressing America’s infrastructure needs (6/4/2021)
Statement: The Proposed Transportation Bill Maintains What Makes American Transportation Inequitable, Unsustainable, and Unsafe (5/24/2021)
City Transportation Officials Applaud Biden’s Visionary Infrastructure Plan (3/31/2021)
A Reprieve for all Americans and the 80% of U.S. Residents Living in Cities (3/10/2021)
NACTO Congratulates Pete Buttigieg, U.S. Secretary of Transportation (2/2/2021)
Inspired appointments poised to renew the U.S. Department of Transportation (2/2/2021)
Robin Hutcheson Steps Down as NACTO President to Join Biden Administration (1/21/2021)
NACTO Congratulates Polly Trottenberg (1/19/2021)
NACTO Statement on the Relief Package: A Reprieve for Transit, Yet a Long Road Ahead for Cities (12/22/2020)
NACTO Congratulates Pete Buttigieg  (12/16/2020)
Priorities For a New Administration (12/7/2020)
Playing Politics with Safety: “Anarchist” Transit Agencies Caught in the Crossfire (10/14/2020)
Cities Join National Roadways Standards Body, Providing Critical Voice (1/9/2020)


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