A panel at this year’s 6th Annual National Workshop for State & Local Transportation Advocates.

By Carolyn Kramer & Eileen Houlihan

In March 2014, ARTBA launched an innovative, first-of-its-kind program to provide resources on transportation investment to advocates seeking to move the needle in their states, cities and municipalities. Since then, the Transportation Investment Advocacy Center™ (TIAC) has grown into the “go-to” resource for state and local transportation advocates, with original research, valuable events, and a network of experts to provide support for new and existing campaigns aimed at building highway, bridge, and transit funding through the legislative and ballot process. It’s anchored by the comprehensive website, transportationinvestment.org.

The idea, then ARTBA Chairman Doug Black said, was “to put in one place—and promote the sharing of—current strategies, sample political and communications tools, legislative and ballot language, and information on where to obtain professional campaign advice, research and help.” Mission accomplished.

The Center has also established “best practice” strategies used by advocates for successful campaigns across the country. Emily Cohen, executive vice president of government relations, public policy and political advocacy at United Contractors, worked closely with other advocates in California to pass transportation funding legislation in 2017 and against a repeal attempt in 2018. ARTBA economic reports, based on cutting-edge research, demonstrated the localized benefits of the added investment and helped advocates prevail over the noise of social media and negative advertisements deployed by opponents.

By The Numbers

Over the past five years, TIAC has:

 

  • Detailed $394 billion in new and renewed state and local transportation investment;
  • Monitored reelection votes for 2,800 state lawmakers who voted to increase gas taxes;
  • Tracked 1,700 ballot measures;
  • Followed 800 legislative measures;
  • Hosted 600 industry professionals at the annual Advocates Workshop;
  • Presented 112 webinars with an average attendance of over 100 participants per event; and
  • Welcomed 90 individuals or groups to the Transportation Investment Advocates Council.

California’s Senate Bill 1 and Proposition 6, its attempted repeal, are among the largest referendums tracked by the Center in terms of investment level and population.

With the Center’s core belief that “data doesn’t lie, facts are key,” TIAC has developed and analyzed a collection of over 1,700 ballot measures, 800 legislative measures, and election statistics of 2,800 state lawmakers who voted on a gas tax increase. The Center staff has published 120 analyses and reports with valuable insights on transportation funding methods and campaign strategies.

Ahead of the Center’s launch, nine state were considering less than 20 funding measures by mid-year 2013. In the first half of 2019, over 300 measures have been introduced in 46 states.

The New York Times cited the Center’s data in a 2017 op-ed, noting the 21 states “tired of waiting for Washington” that had raised fuel taxes since 2013. That number has since grown to 31 states.

“I’ve been working with the Georgia Transportation Alliance since 2013. In that time, the TIAC team has been an invaluable partner in our efforts to educate legislators, pass funding legislation, and conduct the follow-up activities necessary for a successful political environment,” said Advocates Council Cochair and Georgia Transportation Alliance Executive Director Seth Millican. “Our relationship with TIAC is truly one of the most valuable partnerships we have.”

The data the Center provides also serves as major support for ARTBA’s main mission, to aggressively grow and protect transportation infrastructure investment at the federal level. Federal funding provides, on average, over half of all annual state department of transportation capital outlays for highway and bridge projects.

“There is a lot of good work being done at the state level, but that doesn’t undermine the importance of the federal piece. It’s a partnership. It’s not either or,” said ARTBA Chief Economist Dr. Alison Premo Black.

The Center’s work includes analysis of the impact a state gas tax increase has on the price of gasoline at the pump, and addressing the false notion that supporting a gas tax increase will cost legislators their jobs.

“We’ve built something that has had a meaningful impact. We are routinely using this information to debunk all the myths surrounding raising the gas tax and what that means for consumers and legislators,” ARTBA CEO Dave Bauer said July 17 at the 6th Annual National Workshop for State & Local Transportation Advocates.

“The data shows that those legislators who voted for a gas tax increase get elected at higher rates than those who voted against it,” added U.S. Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Transportation Infrastructure Ed Mortimer at the July event.

The annual workshop has hosted nearly 600 industry professionals and state legislators from 36 states.

A popular topic at the workshop and in TIAC research is the examination of alternative funding mechanisms in place of, or in combination with, the gas tax. As the Center began examining different trends in transportation investment, electric vehicle fees stood out as a topic of interest among advocates and lawmakers.

In 2016, TIAC began a deep-dive into the topic, producing detailed analysis of existing state legislation and creating model legislative language for other states to implement this fee. Since publication of those reports, 17 states have created their own electric vehicle fees.

The Center is in the process of revamping its website and expects to launch a refurbished site in August. Updated reports and more webinars are also on the horizon, and the Center will continue to track the over 300 transportation funding measures introduced this year. Stay up to date at transportationinvestment.org.

Carolyn Kramer is ARTBA Transportation Investment Advocacy Center director. Eileen Houlihan is ARTBA senior writer/editor.

This story appears in the July/August of ARTBA’s Transportation Builder magazine.