On September 30, 2009 the Safe, Accountable, Flexible Transportation Equity Act will expire and funding America's roads and highways will terminate if the bill is not reauthorized by Congress. The 2005 transportation bill, SAFTEA, appropriated roughly $286.4 billion for transportation maintenance and improvements over a five year timeframe. However, it is anticipated that reauthorization of this legislation will easily top $500 billion and some industry groups are arguing the bill should be as large as $1 trillion. The Highway Reauthorization bill will be the next legislative vehicle that Congress works on where an enormous amount of funding is in play.
The 2005 transportation bill was one of the first to include funding for so called Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). Congress appropriated $110 million over five years for research and development into systems that can relieve traffic congestion through the use of technology and real-time communications networks. We anticipate this funding level to increase more than five fold in the next reauthorization and it therefore presents an excellent opportunity for clients to advocate for the creation of a ITS demonstration program similar to the Smart Grid Demonstration programs created in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (and to a lesser extent, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee) have already begun holding hearings on this topic and interest groups have been meeting with Members and staff to advocate their priorities/requests. However, discussions with staff on the committees of jurisdiction indicate that there is significant opportunity to influence the direction of the legislation, particularly in the area of ITS programs. Products that can improve the nation's transportation system, particularly those that use technology to reduce congestion and increase safety will be looked upon favorably investment-wise by the Committee (as well as the Administration) and thus will stand a reasonable chance of inclusion in the final legislative product. We will likely see legislative language for this bill in the late Spring/early Summer timeframe and it is critical that those seeking financial assistance from this bill quickly advocate their priorities to the Committees of jurisdiction so that they may be included in any early proposal.
The House Transportation Committee and the Senate Commerce Committee will be interested in ITS projects that use advanced technology and communications applications to reduce traffic congestion and in turn reduce emissions and consumption of fossil fuels. Potential ITS projects may include: floating cellular/floating car data, wireless signal extraction (WiSE), intelligent vehicle technologies, infrastructure-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications, CCTV and license plate recognition technologies. In addition, IP infrastructure will be necessary to interconnect these applications and therefore connectivity providers may also be interested in monitoring the size of ITS funding in the next transportation bill.