By Mark Holan, editorial director, ARTBA

Intelligent transportation systems (ITS) advocates want at least five percent of the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) allocated to states to be devoted to digital and ITS-based infrastructure projects, up from current spending of about one percent.

Assuming that the HTF remains funded at approximately $50 billion per year, at least $2.5 billion would be used for ITS, the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) says in a May 19 report. The Washington, D.C.-based think tank says states should be required to match the dedicated ITS fund.

“ITS projects often have to compete with conventional transportation projects for funding, even though ITS technologies are poised to deliver greater long-term benefits than traditional road repair or even new road construction,” the report says. “But a lack of transportation funding at the state level, which tends to exacerbate focus on more immediate concerns at the expense of a longer term vision, conspires with bureaucratic inertia or a lack of interest, technical skill, or knowledge of ITS benefits to make it more difficult for ITS projects to compete with conventional transportation projects out of the same funding pools.”

Report co-author Stephen Ezell, speaking at a report presentation event at the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill, said ITS doesn’t have the same draw for politicians as the flashy ribbon-cuttings of conventional transportation infrastructure. But he insisted ITS is the 21st century, digital equivalent of the Interstate Highway System.

While ARTBA supports federal ITS investment, we have consistently pointed out the destructive and ill-conceived efforts of some in the transportation community to create or accept a “zero-sum game” for federal transportation resources.  The nation’s highway, bridge, public transportation, ITS and other infrastructure needs are not going to be met by intramural squabbles among stakeholders.  The real solution to these challenges in all these areas is for transportation stakeholders to join ARTBA’s efforts to permanently grow Highway Trust Fund revenue to enable significant increases in highway, transit and ITS investment.