By Lauren Schapker, vice president of legislative affairs, ARTBA 

John Porcari, a transportation transition team advisor for President-elect Joe Biden and a former deputy secretary of transportation during the Obama administration, Nov. 12 said stimulus and a long-term surface transportation reauthorization bills could be key elements of the new administration’s plans to boost the economy in 2021.

Porcari, a senior advisor at ARTBA member-firm WSP who noted he was making his comments in a personal capacity, delivered his remarks at the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials (AASHTO) annual meeting. He indicated a stimulus bill and a long-term surface transportation reauthorization bill could be used by the Biden administration to set the direction of the economy. By increasing formula programs provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT), while also boosting its discretionary grant programs, Porcari suggested this dual approach could not only facilitate short-term job creation, but also ensure long-term economic benefits.  

Porcari also reiterated the importance of state flexibility in the federal-aid programs, noting the federal role is to aggregate local decisions into a national system. He encouraged his audience of state transportation agencies to prepare their list of projects for a possible stimulus bill, making sure they include the right mix of short- and long-term priorities, and those that are not just “shovel-ready” but also “shovel-worthy.” 

On Nov. 10, the Biden-Harris transition announced its “agency review teams.” The groups were described as “crafted to ensure they not only reflect the values and priorities of the incoming administration, but reflect the diversity of perspectives crucial for addressing America’s most urgent and complex challenges.”  

The U.S. DOT team is comprised of 18 members, including several representatives from organized labor, transportation leaders from major metropolitan areas, former Obama administration officials and clean energy advocates. No representatives from system users, nor the transportation design and construction industry, were included. The team is led by Phil Washington, chief executive of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (L.A. Metro). 

ARTBA will be in contact with Biden-Harris transition officials, and remain in close consultation with congressional transportation leaders, in preparation for what should be a busy start to 2021 and efforts to make serious federal investments in the nation’s transportation infrastructure system. 

Joe Biden at the ARTBA co-sponsored Moving America Forward campaign event in February 2020. (Gage Skidmore photo.)