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GAO-08-843R: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 
Washington, DC 20548: 

July 29, 2008: 

Congressional Requesters: 

Subject: Surface Transportation Programs: Proposals Highlight Key 
Issues and Challenges in Restructuring the Programs: 

The nation's economic vitality and the quality of life of its citizens 
depend significantly on the availability, dependability, and security 
of its surface transportation network. Our nation has built a vast 
surface transportation system of roads, railways, ports, and transit 
systems that facilitate commerce and improve our quality of life. The 
flow of people and goods is enormous: The nation moved about 5 trillion 
ton miles of freight and 5 trillion passenger miles of people in 2004. 
In total, about 4 million miles of roads, 117,000 miles of rail, 
600,000 bridges, 19,000 airports, 11,000 miles of transit lines, and 
500 train stations make up the surface transportation network. 

For the past several decades, demand has outpaced the capacity of the 
surface transportation system, and population growth, technological 
change, and the increased globalization of the economy will further 
strain the system. For example, according to the Transportation 
Research Board, an expected population growth of 100 million people 
could double the demand for passenger travel. Moreover, this population 
growth will be concentrated in certain regions and states, intensifying 
the demand for transportation in these areas. Likewise, freight traffic 
is projected to grow substantially, putting additional strain on ports, 
highways, and railroads. Furthermore, as we have recently reported, 
federal surface transportation programs are not effectively addressing 
key challenges, such as congestion, or ensuring that transportation 
dollars are well spent, because federal goals and roles are unclear, 
many programs lack links to needs or performance, and the programs 
often do not employ the best tools and approaches. As a result, we and 
others have called for a fundamental reexamination and refocusing of 
the nation's surface transportation policies--and we have recommended 
that Congress consider restructuring these programs so that they (1) 
have goals with direct links to an identified national interest and 
role, (2) make grantees more accountable through more performance-based 
links between funding and program outcomes, (3) use tools and 
approaches that emphasize the return on federal investment, and (4) 
address the current imbalance between federal surface transportation 
revenues and spending.[Footnote 1] Although reexamining and reshaping 
surface transportation programs is a challenging endeavor, it provides 
an opportunity to address both current and emerging needs by 
eliminating outdated or ineffective programs, more sharply defining the 
federal role in relation to state and local roles, and modernizing 
those programs and policies that remain relevant. 

Through our prior analyses of and recommendations for existing 
programs, we identified a framework of principles that could be used to 
evaluate proposals for restructuring and funding federal surface 
transportation programs.[Footnote 2] These principles include (1) 
defining the federal role based on identified areas of national 
interest and goals, (2) incorporating performance and accountability 
into funding decisions, (3) employing the best tools and approaches to 
improve results and return on investment, and (4) ensuring fiscal 
sustainability. We developed these principles based on prior analyses 
of existing surface transportation programs as well as a body of work 
that we have developed for Congress, including GAO's high-risk and 
performance and accountability reports. 

Recognizing many of these challenges and the importance of the surface 
transportation system, Congress established the National Surface 
Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission (Policy Commission) 
and the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing 
Commission (Financing Commission) to examine current and future needs 
of the system, recommend needed changes to surface transportation 
programs, and recommend alternative approaches to financing 
transportation infrastructure, among other things. The Policy 
Commission issued its report in January 2008, and the Financing 
Commission, which issued its interim report in February 2008, plans to 
issue its final report in November of this year. Various other 
transportation industry associations and research organizations have 
also issued, or plan to issue in the coming months, proposals for 
restructuring and funding surface transportation programs. 

You asked that we assist Congress in evaluating the range of proposals 
and recommendations being put forward by various stakeholders. 
Accordingly, this report (1) identifies key themes emphasized in 
proposals by stakeholders, including associations and research 
organizations, for restructuring and funding surface transportation 
programs and (2) discusses the extent to which the Policy Commission's 
recommendations align with principles we have developed for evaluating 
proposals to restructure and fund surface transportation programs. To 
identify key themes emphasized in transportation stakeholders' 
proposals for restructuring and funding surface transportation 
programs, we interviewed a broad range of associations and research 
organizations about issues that should be addressed in a reform of the 
programs. We also asked these stakeholders about the extent to which 
they had developed proposals or other documents for restructuring and 
funding surface transportation programs. Given that many stakeholders 
have not yet developed formal restructuring proposals, we identified 
seven proposals for inclusion in our review, four of which are 
final.[Footnote 3] We reviewed and analyzed these proposals and 
synthesized the information to draw out key themes. To determine the 
extent to which the Policy Commission's recommendations align with 
principles we have developed for evaluating proposals to restructure 
and fund surface transportation programs, we reviewed and synthesized 
the proposed recommendations, interviewed commissioners and commission 
staff to get a fuller understanding of the recommendations, developed 
criteria for applying our principles, and applied those criteria to the 
recommendations. We limited the application of our restructuring 
principles to our evaluation of the Policy Commission's proposal for 
restructuring and funding surface transportation programs because (1) 
the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A 
Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) established this commission to provide a 
comprehensive review of existing programs, and (2) the number of final 
restructuring proposals that have been developed by other stakeholders 
is limited. 

We briefed congressional staff on the results of our review (see 
enclosure I for a copy of the briefing). This report formally conveys 
the information provided during the briefings. A more detailed 
description of our scope and methodology can also be found in enclosure 
I, and the criteria we used to evaluate the Policy Commission's 
proposal are listed in enclosure II. We conducted this performance 
audit from October 2007 through July 2008 in accordance with generally 
accepted government auditing standards. Those standards require that we 
plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence 
to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on 
our audit objectives. We believe that the evidence obtained provides a 
reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit 
objectives. 

Background: 

As previously noted, we have identified a number of principles that 
could be used to evaluate proposals for restructuring and funding 
surface transportation programs to ensure that both current and 
emerging challenges are being addressed. The principles do not 
prescribe a specific approach to restructuring or funding and are not 
mutually exclusive, but they do provide key attributes that will help 
ensure that restructured surface transportation programs address the 
transportation challenges facing the nation. A description of the 
principles follows. 

* Define the federal role based on identified areas of national 
interest and goals. Identifying areas of national interest is an 
important first step in any proposal to restructure and fund surface 
transportation programs. In identifying areas of national interest, 
proposals should consider existing current and emerging challenges and 
how future trends could affect emerging areas of national importance--
as well as how the national interest and federal role may vary by area. 
For example, experts have suggested that federal transportation policy 
should recognize emerging national and global imperatives, such as 
reducing the nation's dependence on foreign fuel sources and minimizing 
the impact of the transportation system on the global climate. Once the 
various national interests in surface transportation have been 
identified, proposals should also clarify specific goals for federal 
involvement in surface transportation programs. Goals should be 
specific and outcome-based to ensure that resources are targeted to 
projects that further the national interest. After the various national 
interests and specific goals for federal involvement in surface 
transportation have been identified, the federal role in working toward 
each goal should be established. The federal role should be defined in 
relation to the roles of state and local governments, regional 
entities, and the private sector. Where the national interest is 
greatest, the federal government may play a more direct role in setting 
priorities and allocating resources as well as fund a higher share of 
program costs. Conversely, where the national interest is less evident-
-for example, where the economic benefits are more locally focused or 
there are varying regional preferences--state and local governments and 
others could be expected to assume more responsibility. For example, 
efforts to reduce transportation's impact on greenhouse gas emissions 
may warrant a greater federal role than other initiatives, such as 
reducing urban congestion, since the impacts of greenhouse gas 
emissions are widely dispersed, whereas the impacts of urban congestion 
may be more localized. 

* Incorporate performance and accountability into funding decisions. An 
increased focus on performance and accountability for results could 
help the federal government target resources to programs that best 
achieve intended outcomes and national transportation priorities. 
Tracking specific outcomes that are clearly linked to program goals 
could provide a strong foundation for holding grant recipients 
responsible for achieving federal objectives and measuring overall 
program performance. In particular, substituting specific performance 
measures for the current federal procedural requirements could help 
make programs more outcome-oriented. For example, if reducing 
congestion were an established federal goal, outcome measures for 
congestion, such as reduced travel time, could be incorporated into the 
programs to hold state and local governments responsible for meeting 
specific performance targets. Furthermore, directly linking the 
allocation of resources to program outcomes would increase the focus on 
performance and accountability for results. Incorporating incentives or 
penalty provisions into grants can further hold grantees and recipients 
accountable for achieving results. 

* Employ the best tools and approaches to improve results and return on 
investment. The effectiveness of any overall federal program design can 
be increased by promoting and facilitating the use of the best tools 
and approaches to improve results and emphasize return on investment. 
Given the projected growth in federal deficits, constrained state and 
local budgets, and looming Social Security and Medicare spending 
commitments, the resources available for discretionary programs will be 
more limited--making it imperative to maximize the national public 
benefits of any federal investment through a rigorous examination of 
the use of such funds.[Footnote 4] A number of specific tools and 
approaches can be used to improve results and return on investment 
including using economic analysis, such as cost-benefit analysis, in 
project selection; requiring grantees to conduct post-project 
evaluations; creating incentives to better utilize existing 
infrastructure; providing states and localities with greater 
flexibility to use certain tools, such as tolling and congestion 
pricing; and requiring maintenance-of-effort provisions in grants. 
[Footnote 5] Using these tools and approaches could help surface 
transportation programs more directly address national transportation 
priorities. 

* Ensure fiscal sustainability. Transportation funding sources, and the 
Highway Trust Fund in particular, face an imbalance of revenues and 
expenditures--raising concerns about both the Highway Trust Fund's 
short-term sustainability and the long-term sustainability of the 
current funding approach. Furthermore, the sustainability of 
transportation funding sources should be seen in the context of the 
broader, governmentwide problem of fiscal imbalance. The federal role 
in transportation funding must be reexamined to ensure that it is 
sustainable in this new fiscal reality. The long-term pressures on the 
Highway Trust Fund and the governmentwide fiscal condition highlight 
the need for more efficient, redesigned programs based on the 
principles we have identified. Sustainable surface transportation 
programs will require targeted investment, with adequate return on 
investment, from not only the federal government but also state and 
local governments and the private sector. Moreover, mechanisms to 
better manage existing capacity and improve the performance of existing 
facilities can be used to facilitate efficient investment decisions and 
ensure the sustainability of surface transportation programs. 

Results in Brief: 

Stakeholders we interviewed agree that the current federal approach to 
surface transportation is not working and called for reform and a new 
direction to effectively address a wide range of challenges facing the 
nation's surface transportation network. Although the stakeholders we 
interviewed have different policy agendas and represent different 
constituencies, some of their key issues for restructuring and funding 
surface transportation programs overlapped. In reviewing the seven 
restructuring proposals, we identified the following common themes: 

* defining a federal role in freight and goods movement given the 
regional benefits provided by freight corridors and the importance of 
interstate commerce; 

* linking transportation policy and funding to the environment and 
energy sectors given transportation's contribution to greenhouse gas 
emissions and concerns about energy security; 

* promoting better management of existing assets through more efficient 
use of existing infrastructure or asset management strategies;[Footnote 
6] 

* incorporating performance and accountability into transportation 
programs to ensure projects that receive funding result in commensurate 
public benefits; and: 

* using multiple funding sources to ensure the long-term sustainability 
of the programs. 

In its report, the Policy Commission discusses concepts that generally 
align with principles we have developed for evaluating proposals to 
restructure and fund surface transportation programs, but certain 
inconsistencies between the Policy Commission's recommendations and 
these principles highlight the challenges and complexity of developing 
effective mechanisms to achieve desired results. For example, the 
Policy Commission identifies areas of national interest and recommends 
generally reorganizing the federal role around those interests. 
However, the Policy Commission does not identify measurable goals for 
most of its proposed programs. Furthermore, the Policy Commission 
recommends an 80/20 federal-state cost-sharing arrangement for most of 
the proposed programs--that is, the federal government would fund 80 
percent of the project costs and the grantee (e.g., state government) 
would fund 20 percent--raising questions about the extent to which the 
federal role would vary based on the identified areas of national 
interest and goals. The Policy Commission also emphasizes the need for 
performance-based surface transportation programs and the development 
of national performance standards. However, it does not provide 
specific detail on performance outcomes for most of the recommended 
programs or clearly discuss the link between the distribution of funds 
and performance in meeting national goals. The Policy Commission also 
recognizes the importance of cost-benefit analysis, data collection, 
and other tools for targeting resources to projects that provide the 
greatest net benefits, but does not discuss how projects would be 
prioritized given current funding constraints or fully consider other 
tools that could improve efficiency and system performance, such as 
congestion mitigation techniques or the use of technology. Finally, the 
Policy Commission recognizes that there is no silver bullet funding 
solution for the nation's surface transportation programs and 
identifies a variety of approaches for funding the programs in the 
short and long terms. However, the federal government's fiscal position 
and the ability of states to fund their share of any proposed 
investment increases raise questions about the long-term sustainability 
of some of the Policy Commission's funding recommendations. 

Agency Comments and Our Evaluation: 

We provided a draft of this report to the Department of Transportation 
(DOT) for review and comment. On July 22, 2008, DOT provided comments 
on the draft report via e-mail. DOT generally agreed with the report's 
findings and provided some technical clarifications and comments, which 
we incorporated as appropriate. In particular, DOT commented that GAO's 
reexamination principles are closely interrelated. For example, DOT 
noted that the principle of using the best tools to improve results and 
return on investment, such as cost-benefit analysis, is closely linked 
to the principle of ensuring performance and accountability. We agree 
that the principles are interrelated. We added clarifying language to 
the report to acknowledge this interrelationship. DOT also noted that 
there was greater support for the use of cost-benefit analysis and 
pricing strategies among the proposals than was conveyed by the draft 
report. The draft report recognized the proposals' emphasis on such 
tools as cost-benefit analysis and pricing as a means to better manage 
existing assets. However, we added language to clarify the broad-based 
support for these tools among the proposals. 

We are sending copies of this report to interested Members of Congress 
and the Secretary of Transportation. We will also make copies available 
to others upon request. In addition, the report will be available at no 
charge on the GAO Web site at [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov]. 

If you or your staff have any questions about this correspondence, 
please contact JayEtta Z. Hecker at (202) 512-2834. Contact points for 
our Offices of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found 
on the last page of this correspondence. Key contributors are listed on 
the scope and methodology page of enclosure I. 

Signed by: 

JayEtta Z. Hecker:
Director, Physical Infrastructure Issues: 

Enclosures: 

List of Requesters:
The Honorable James L. Oberstar:
Chairman:
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure:
House of Representatives: 

The Honorable Charles B. Rangel:
Chairman:
Committee on Ways and Means:
House of Representatives: 

The Honorable John M. Spratt, Jr.
Chairman:
Committee on the Budget:
House of Representatives: 

The Honorable Peter A. DeFazio:
Chairman:
Subcommittee on Highways and Transit:
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure:
House of Representatives: 

The Honorable Earl Blumenauer:
House of Representatives: 

[End of section] 

Enclosure I: 

Briefing Overview: 

7/29/2008: 

Surface Transportation Programs: 

Proposals Highlight Key Issues and Challenges in Restructuring the 
Programs: 

Why GAO Did This Study: 

Recognizing the challenges facing the nationís transportation system 
and the importance of the system to the nation, Congress established 
two commissions to address the challenges facing the federal surface 
transportation programóthe National Surface Transportation Policy and 
Revenue Study Commission (Policy Commission) and the National Surface 
Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission (Financing 
Commission). In addition, various transportation stakeholders have 
issued, or plan to issue in the coming months, proposals for 
restructuring and funding surface transportation programs. 

We were asked to assist Congress in evaluating the range of proposals 
and recommendations being put forward by various stakeholders. 
Accordingly, this report (1) identifies key themes emphasized in 
proposals by stakeholders, including associations and research 
organizations, for restructuring and funding surface transportation 
programs and (2) discusses the extent to which the Policy Commissionís 
recommendations align with principles we have developed for evaluating 
proposals to restructure and fund surface transportation programs. 

We selected and analyzed seven restructuring and funding proposals, 
including the Policy Commissionís proposal, and interviewed 
representatives from associations and research organizations, among 
other things. 

Stakeholders we interviewed agree that current surface transportation 
programs should be reformed and a new direction is needed to address 
challenges facing the surface transportation network. In addition, 
stakeholders emphasized a number of different issues they see as 
important to restructuring and funding surface transportation programs. 
In reviewing the seven restructuring proposals, we identified the 
following themes: 

* defining a federal role in freight and goods movement given the 
regional benefits provided by freight corridors and the importance of 
interstate commerce; 

* linking transportation policy and funding to the environment and 
energy sectors given transportationís contribution to greenhouse gas 
emissions and concerns about energy security; 

* promoting better management of existing assets through efficient use 
or life-cycle management strategies; 

* incorporating performance and accountability into transportation 
programs to ensure projects that receive funding result in commensurate 
public benefits; and; 

* using multiple funding sources to ensure the long-term sustainability 
of the programs. 

In its report, the Policy Commission discusses concepts that generally 
align with principles we have developed for evaluating proposals to 
restructure and fund surface transportation programs, but certain 
inconsistencies between the Policy Commissionís recommendations and 
these principles highlight the challenges and complexity of developing 
effective mechanisms to achieve desired results. For example, the 
Policy Commission identifies areas of national interest and recommends 
generally reorganizing the federal role around those interests. 
However, the Policy Commission does not identify measurable goals for 
most of its proposed programs. Furthermore, the Policy Commission 
recommends an 80/20 federal-state cost sharing arrangement for most of 
the proposed programsóthat is, the federal government would fund 80 
percent of the project costs and the grantee (e.g., state government) 
would fund 20 percentóraising questions about the extent to which the 
federal role would vary based on the identified areas of national 
interest and goals. 

Briefing Structure: 
Background; 
Common Themes; 
Policy Commission Proposal; 
Scope and Methodology; 
Enclosure II: Evaluation Criteria; 
List of Restructuring Proposals Reviewed; 
Related GAO Products. 

Background: 

What GAO Has Said: 

We have called for a fundamental reexamination of the nationís surface 
transportation programs. Through our prior analyses of existing 
programs we identified a number of principles that could help drive an 
assessment of proposals for restructuring and funding surface 
transportation programs. The principles do not prescribe a specific 
approach to restructuring or funding and are not mutually exclusive, 
but they do identify key attributes that will help ensure that 
restructured surface transportation programs address current and 
emerging challenges. These principles include: 

* defining the federal role based on identified areas of national 
interest and goals; 

* incorporating performance and accountability for results into funding 
decisions; 

* employing the best tools and approaches to improve results and return 
on investment, and; 

* ensuring fiscal sustainability. 

What GAO Has Recommended: 

Congress should consider reexamining and refocusing surface 
transportation programs so that they (1) have goals with direct links 
to an identified federal interest and role, (2) make grantees more 
accountable through more performance-based links between funding and 
program outcomes, (3) use tools and approaches that emphasize the 
return on the federal investment, and (4) address the current imbalance 
between federal surface transportation revenues and spending[Footnote 
7]. 

GAO Restructuring Principles: 

Define the federal role based on identified areas of national interest 
and goals: 

Identifying areas of national interest is an important first step in 
any proposal to restructure and fund surface transportation programs. 
In identifying areas of national interest, proposals should consider 
how future trends, such as increases in passenger and freight travel 
that have led to growing congestion, could have an impact on emerging 
areas of national importance, such as minimizing the impact of the 
transportation system on global climate change. Proposals should also 
consider how the national interest and federal role may vary by area 
and in relation to other levels of government and the private sector 
and whether the national interest is greater in certain areas of 
national priority. Once the various national interests in surface 
transportation have been identified, proposals should also clarify 
specific goals for federal involvement for each area of national 
interest identified and how they relate to the roles of other 
stakeholders. Goals should be specific and outcome-based to ensure that 
resources are targeted to projects that further the national interest. 

Incorporate performance and accountability into funding decisions: 

An increased focus on performance and accountability for results could 
help all levels of government target resources to programs that best 
achieve intended outcomes and national transportation priorities. 
Tracking specific outcomes that are clearly linked to program goals 
could provide a strong foundation for holding grant recipients 
responsible for achieving federal objectives and measuring overall 
program performance. In addition, accountability mechanisms, such as 
specific performance targets; incentive or penalty provisions in 
transportation grants; and competitive selection processes, where 
appropriate, can be used to create clear links between performance and 
funding and further hold grantees and recipients accountable for 
achieving results. 

Employ the best tools and approaches to improve results and return on 
investment: 

The effectiveness of any overall federal program design can be 
increased by promoting and facilitating the use of best tools and 
approaches to improve results and return on investment. A number of 
specific tools and approaches can be used to improve results and return 
on investment including using economic analysis, such as benefit-cost 
analysis, in project selection; requiring grantees to conduct post-
project evaluations; creating incentives to better utilize existing 
infrastructure; providing state and localities greater flexibility to 
use certain tools, such as tolling and congestion pricing; and 
requiring maintenance of effort provisions in grants. 

Ensure fiscal sustainability: 

Transportation funding, and the Highway Trust Fund in particular, faces 
an imbalance of revenues and expenditures and other threats to its long 
term sustainability. Furthermore, the sustainability of transportation 
funding should also be seen in the context of the broader, 
governmentwide problem of fiscal imbalance. A sustainable surface 
transportation program will require targeted investment, with adequate 
return on investment, from not only the federal government, but also 
from state and local governments, and the private sector. 

Source: GAO. 

SAFETEA-LU Commissions: 

Congress established two commissions to address the challenges facing 
the federal surface transportation programóthe Policy Commission and 
the Financing Commission. 

The mission of the Policy Commission was, among other things, to 
examine the condition and future needs of the nationís surface 
transportation system and short- and long-term alternatives to replace 
or supplement the fuel tax as the principal revenue source to support 
the Highway Trust Fund. 

The Financing Commission was charged with analyzing future highway and 
transit needs and the funding of the Highway Trust Fund and 
recommending alternative approaches to funding and financing 
transportation infrastructure. Its mission is to analyze and make 
recommendations concerning the federal role in funding surface 
transportation infrastructure. 

Proposals to Restructure and Fund Surface Transportation Programs: 

Stakeholder Proposals: 

In January 2008, the Policy Commission released a report with numerous 
recommendations intended to place the Highway Trust Fund on a 
sustainable path and to reform the current structure of the nationís 
surface transportation programs. The Policy Commissionís 
recommendations include significantly increasing the level of 
investment by all levels of government in surface transportation, 
consolidating and reorganizing the current programs, speeding project 
delivery, and making the current programs more performance- and outcome-
based. For example, the Policy Commission: 

* recommends 10 new surface transportation programs to replace existing 
programs; 

* identifies several strategies, such as shortening the environmental 
review process, to reduce overall project delivery times for major 
transportation projects; and; 

* discusses the importance of developing national performance standards 
for each of its recommended programs. 

In its interim report, issued in February 2008, the Financing 
Commission outlines the scope of the funding problem facing the surface 
transportation system and the criteria it plans to use to evaluate 
various funding sources and financing techniques. In addition, the 
Financing Commission offers some preliminary observations on the 
surface transportation system. Specifically, the Financing Commission 
plans to address: 

* potential actions to help deal with near- and moderate-term funding 
problems; 

* initial changes or supplements to the current approachóincluding 
pilot programsóthat may be necessary to lay a successful foundation for 
addressing the nationís infrastructure investment challenges; and; 

* potential long-term changes or supplements that may be needed to 
fully implement a responsive and viable funding approach to support the 
future surface transportation system. 

The Financing Commission will make specific funding recommendations in 
its final report, which it plans to issue in November 2008. 

In addition, various transportation associations and research 
organizations have issued, or plan to issue in the coming months, 
proposals for restructuring and funding surface transportation 
programs. See page 26 of this correspondence for a list of the 
restructuring proposals we reviewed. 

Common Themes: Stakeholders Agree on Need for Reform and Emphasize 
Common Themes in Proposals for Restructuring and Funding Surface 
Transportation Programs: 

What GAO Has Said: 

We have previously reported that the current federal approach to 
addressing the nationís surface transportation problems is not working 
well. [Footnote 8] Even though expenditures for transportation have 
greatly increased in real terms, the investment has not resulted in a 
commensurate improvement in the performance of nationís surface 
transportation system, as congestion continues to grow and looming 
problems from anticipated growth in travel demand are not being 
adequately addressed. 

Reform Is Needed: 

Stakeholders we interviewed agree that reform of the nationís surface 
transportation system is needed. For example, the Financing 
Commissionís interim report states that the nationís surface 
transportation system is in physical and financial crisis because the 
current approach to funding infrastructure development and maintenance 
is no longer able to address the serious challenges the nation faces 
today. The Policy Commissionís report describes the surface 
transportation system as at a crossroads and states that the future of 
the nationís well-being, vitality, and global economic leadership is at 
stake. Similarly, the American Association of State Highway and 
Transportation Officials (AASHTO) proposal states that the nation 
stands at a fork in the road for developing a new vision for 
transforming the transportation system. Furthermore, the American Road 
and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) proposal calls for a 
new mission and direction for the nationís transportation network and 
cautions that it will not be an easy task, noting that it will require 
political will and leadership from the federal government, working in 
partnership with state governments and other relevant stakeholders. The 
goal of the Bipartisan Policy Centerís National Transportation Policy 
Project is to encourage and support the development of a new national 
transportation policy direction that reflects the nationís values and 
economic vision of the future, while the Transportation for America 
Campaign (T4America) calls for major changes to our federal 
transportation and infrastructure investment program to ensure that the 
future is more equitable, economically viable, and environmentally 
sound. Finally, the Brookings Institution proposal calls for a new 
federal transportation program that keeps pace with todayís economic, 
social, and environmental landscape and helps the nation to prosper. 

Common Themes for Restructuring and Funding Surface Transportation 
Programs: 

We identified five common themes from our review of seven proposals to 
restructure and fund the nationís surface transportation programs. 
[Footnote 9] 

1. Define the federal role in freight and goods movement. 

2. Link transportation policy and funding to the environment and energy 
sectors. 

3. Promote better management of existing assets. 

4. Incorporate performance and accountability. 

5. Use multiple funding sources. 

Common Themes: Federal Role in Freight and Goods Movement: 

What GAO Has Said: 

We have previously reported that the widening gap between the volume of 
goods and available system capacity is increasing transportation 
congestion and further volume growth is expected (see table 1). 
Constrained freight mobility has adverse economic costs for consumers, 
shippers, and carriers. Public planners face several challenges when 
advancing freight improvement projects. These challenges include 
competition from nonfreight projects for public funds and gaining 
community support in the planning process, lack of coordination among 
various government entities and private sector stakeholders, and 
limited or restricted availability of public funds for freight 
transportation. [Footnote 10] Decision makers will be challenged to 
ensure federal funding for freight projects, including likely growing 
requests for funding in the future, is consistent with competition in 
the marketplace, reflects national public priorities, and offers 
benefits that warrant the commitment of federal funds. 

What GAO Has Recommended: 

To address these challenges, we recommended that DOT work with Congress 
and freight stakeholders to develop a comprehensive national strategy 
to more clearly define the federal governmentís involvement in freight 
transportation projects.[Footnote 11] This strategy should include 
defining federal and nonfederal stakeholder roles and using new and 
existing federal funding sources and mechanisms to support a targeted, 
cost-effective, and sustainable federal role and maximize the public 
benefits from federally funded freight transportation investments. 

Theme: 

The majority of the proposals we reviewed identify a need for 
investment and a clear federal role in freight and goods movement. 

Suggestions: 

Proposals we reviewed identified a need to invest in regional freight 
corridors and link them to economic competitiveness. ARTBA describes 
the nation as in the early stages of a freight bottleneck crisis given 
that more than 200 freight bottlenecks are costing the trucking 
industry $8 billion in economic losses annually and 243 million hours 
of delay and lost productivity each year. In its report, the Policy 
Commission states that economic forecasts indicate that by 2020, 
freight volumes will be 70 percent greater than they were in 1998. 

Proposals we reviewed also generally agree that there is a federal role 
in facilitating freight movement. Specifically, ARTBA suggests that 
there is a federal role in freight transportation to facilitate 
interstate commerce. AASHTO also calls for an increased federal role 
for freight transportation infrastructure, suggesting that although the 
United States still has the most fully developed transportation system 
compared to its major competitors, it is losing ground and will need to 
improve its system to remain competitive in the global economy. Several 
of the proposals recommended the development of plans or the creation 
of a separate program to invest in and facilitate freight 
transportation. For example, the Brookings Institution proposal states 
that increases in trade are taxing the nation's current network of 
airports, seaports, rails, and roads and recommends the creation of a 
meaningful intermodal freight agenda. Furthermore, the Policy 
Commission recommends the introduction of a federal freight fee to 
establish a national program to help strategically expand capacity for 
freight transportation. The Policy Commission notes that a freight fee, 
such as a per container charge, could help fund projects, such as port 
facilities or strategic national rail bridges, to remedy choke points 
and increase throughput. In considering such funding mechanisms, 
however, the Financing Commission notes the importance of considering 
how the mechanisms affect the competition between modes. 

Table 1: Shipment Volumes by Mode in 2002 and 2035 Projections 
(Millions of Tons): 

Truck: 
2002: 11,539; 
2035: 22,814; 
Percent Increase: 98%. 

Rail: 
2002: 1,879; 
2035: 3,525; 
Percent Increase: 88%. 

Water: 
2002: 701; 
2035: 1,041; 
Percent Increase: 49%. 

Intermodal[A]: 
2002: 1,292; 
2035: 2,598; 
Percent Increase: 101%. 

Source: GAO analysis of the Federal Highway Administrationís Freight 
Facts and Figures 2006 data. 

[A] Intermodal includes shipments by the U.S. Postal Service, couriers, 
and all intermodal combinations except air and truck. 

[End of table] 

Common Themes: Link Transportation Policy and Funding to Environment 
and Energy Sectors: 

What GAO Has Said: 

We have reported on the link between surface transportation policy and 
the environment and energy sectors. In our report on the Corporate 
Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program, we concluded that CAFE standards 
could help the nation meet fuel-saving goals if such standards were 
increased. [Footnote 12] However, meeting the nationís goals to reduce 
oil consumption over time will require more than CAFE alone, and we 
noted that other tools, such as a carbon tax, could be used to 
complement and strengthen CAFEís fuel-saving effects or potentially 
serve as alternatives to CAFE. 

In a forum on transportation policy we held in September 2007, 
participants stated that the nationís transportation policy should 
recognize emerging conditions, such as the need to reduce fuel 
dependence and minimize the impact of the transportation system on the 
global climate. [Footnote 13] Furthermore, all participants agreed that 
the federal government should have a role in minimizing adverse 
environmental impacts of the transportation system. 

Theme: 

The majority of the proposals we reviewed stress the importance of 
linking transportation policy and funding to the environment and energy 
sectors. 

Suggestions: 

Proposals we reviewed agree that meeting the nationís surface 
transportation needs will require solutions that go beyond 
transportation improvements because of the impact transportation has on 
the environment, the global climate, and energy consumption. In 
particular, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 
transportation accounts for almost a third of the greenhouse gas 
emissions contributing to climate change (see fig. 1). Furthermore, the 
United States is the single largest consumer of oil and produces only 
half of its energy needs. Consequently, proposals suggest linking 
environmental and energy goals to transportation policy and funding 
mechanisms. The Bipartisan Policy Centerís report suggests that 
transportation policy can use multiple tools, such as fuel taxes, 
congestion pricing, or charges for vehicle miles traveled (VMT), to 
promote non-petroleum, low-carbon fuels and encourage lower oil 
consumption. In addition to using transit as part of congestion relief 
strategies, the Policy Commission also notes that transit can be used 
to help support policies to reduce transportation energy consumption, 
greenhouse gas emissions, and air pollution. The Financing Commissionís 
interim report also suggests that impacts on the environment and energy 
sectors should be considered when policymakers evaluate funding 
mechanisms. According to the Financing Commission, potential evaluation 
criteria to assess funding mechanisms, such as tolling or taxes, 
include: 

* the extent to which the funding mechanism improves the way the system 
takes into account beneficial and harmful side effects, including 
pollution, and; 

* the extent to which the mechanism affects other markets or policies, 
such as energy independence. 

Figure 1: Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the Transportation 
Sector, 2003: 

[See PDF for image] 

This figure is a pie-chart depicting the following data: 

Total greenhouse gas emissions, 2003: 
* Transportation sector: 27%; 
- Light cars and trucks: 62% of the 27%; 
- Other transportation sources: 38% of the 27%; 
* Other source: 73%. 

Source: EPA. 

[End of figure] 

Common Themes: Better Management of Existing Assets: 

What GAO Has Said: 

We have previously reported that the demand on our nationís road 
infrastructure is expected to continue increasing for the foreseeable 
future.[Footnote 14] This continued demand comes at a time when many of 
the nationís major roadways are at capacity during peak hoursócreating 
increasing levels of congestion throughout the nation. Given the 
magnitude of todayís fiscal, environmental, and land use concerns, we 
cannot build our way out of congestion. 

We have also reported that an asset management program can lead to 
faster, more reliable passenger and freight travel. An asset management 
program involves systematically maintaining, upgrading, and operating 
transportation assets cost-effectively by applying engineering 
principles, sound business and economic practices, and a framework for 
planning and decision making. 

Furthermore, we have identified two types of congestion mitigation 
techniques that can encourage more efficient use of existing 
infrastructure. One enhances capacity through better operations and use 
of technology, such as timing signals to improve traffic flow. The 
other influences behavior about when and where to drive, through such 
specific means as charging drivers tolls to use roads during peak hours 
to more fully convey the economic, social, and environmental costs of 
driving at peak periods. Figure 2 illustrates examples of both types of 
techniques. 

Theme: 

The majority of the proposals we reviewed maintain that better 
management of existing assets would benefit the nationís surface 
transportation programs. 

Suggestions: 

Proposals we reviewed highlight the importance of maintenance and asset 
management of existing transportation infrastructure. For example, the 
Policy Commissionís report proposes a national asset management program 
to keep the nationís infrastructure in a state of good repair. 
Similarly, the Financing Commissionís interim report states that the 
nation needs more intelligent investment complemented by better 
operations and that investment decision making should be based on life-
cycle cost-benefit analysis and other measures of performance outcomes. 
AASHTO cites using asset management to preserve, restore, enhance, and 
extend the life of the existing system as one of its goals for 
supporting economic growth. 

Proposals we reviewed also highlight strategies to use existing 
capacity more efficiently through better incentives for optimal system 
operation. According to the Brookings Institution, research suggests 
that managing and increasing the performance of the nationís existing 
infrastructure would stimulate economic growth more than building new 
infrastructure. Furthermore, AASHTOís proposal suggests the use of 
advanced intelligent transportation systems (ITS) technologies and 
better system management techniques to reduce congestion, improve 
throughput, and increase system reliability. The Brookings Institution 
proposal supports a national commitment to make maximum use of existing 
road capacity by encouraging market responses, such as road pricing. 
For example, according to the Brookings Institution proposal, greater 
use of market mechanisms and pricing strategies can effectively address 
congestion on major roads and highways during peak times and manage the 
enormous demand for scarce capacity. All of the proposals we reviewed 
also cite pricing as a possible mechanism to reduce congestion. Other 
congestion mitigation techniques, such as improved incident management 
and telework policies, have also been recommended by stakeholders. For 
example, according to AASHTO, telecommuting is one technique that could 
reduce demand for road capacity by limiting VMT growth. 

Figure 2: Examples of Various Congestion Mitigation Techniques: 

[See PDF for image] 

This figure contains four illustrations, as follows: 

Various Congestion Mitigation Techniques: 
* High-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes; 
* Incident management program; 
* Telework policies; 
* Traffic signal timing. 

Source: GAO. 

[End of figure] 

Common Themes: Incorporate Performance and Accountability: 

What GAO Has Said: 

We have previously reported there are significant opportunities to 
incorporate performance and accountability mechanisms into federal 
programs.[Footnote 15] Tracking specific outcomes that are clearly 
linked to program goals could provide a strong foundation for holding 
grant recipients responsible for achieving federal objectives and 
measuring overall program performance. In particular, substituting 
specific performance measures for the federal procedural requirements 
could help to shift federal involvement from the current process-
oriented approach to a more outcome-oriented approach. 

The federal government is also not equipped to implement a performance-
based approach to transportation funding in many areas because it lacks 
a comprehensive oversight approach, including goals and measures that 
guide its activities.[Footnote 16] In addition, data on key performance 
and outcome indicatorsóideally covering all projects and parts of the 
national transportation network, as well as all modesó is often absent 
or flawed. For example, DOT does not have a central source of data on 
congestionóthe available data are stovepiped by modeóand some 
congestion information for freight rail is inaccessible because it is 
proprietary and controlled by railroad companies. Better oversight and 
data on outcomes would be needed in order to ensure efficient use of 
funds and to consider performance in funding decisions. 

Theme: 

The majority of the proposals we reviewed recommended using performance 
and accountability measures in the nationís surface transportation 
programs. 

Suggestions: 

Proposals we reviewed generally highlight the need to incorporate 
performance-based funding into surface transportation programs. In its 
proposal, T4America offers possible performance measures for funding 
transportation investments, such as reductions in carbon emission, 
energy use, and fatalities and injuries; system condition and life-
cycle costs; decreased household transportation expenditures; or 
improved access to jobs. The Bipartisan Policy Centerís report 
describes steps needed for performance-based funding: 

* Create detailed metrics that effectively measure performance. 

* Prioritize performance metrics based on research. Once metrics have 
been developed, it will be important to prioritize them based on the 
goals for national transportation policy. 

* Develop mechanisms for linking federal funding to performance 
indicators. 

The Bipartisan Policy Centerís report also recognizes the challenges 
associated with designing performance-based surface transportation 
programs. For example, congestion and safety are often referred to as 
key performance indicators for the surface transportation network, but 
it could be challenging for policymakers to determine how to 
effectively measure congestion and safety outcomes and how they are 
relatively weighted against and related to other possible goals, such 
as reduced carbon emissions, energy security, or economic growth. 
Furthermore, how performance metrics are linked to funding is crucial, 
according to the Bipartisan Policy Centerís report. For example, 
policymakers would need to determine whether allocating funding for 
states with high levels of congestion would encourage congestion. On 
the other hand, funding for states with little or no congestion may be 
difficult to justify. Policymakers are unlikely to support new 
performance indicators unless they understand how these indicators will 
be used and how they will affect future funding decisions. 

Proposals also highlight the need for more comprehensive data to 
support performance and accountability programs. The Brookings 
Institution proposal stresses that in order to commit to a performance-
based transportation program, a major overhaul is needed in how the 
federal government collects, assembles, and provides data and 
information. Additionally, the Brookings Institution proposal advocates 
more transparent transportation data to better inform decision making 
at the state and metropolitan levels and to restore credibility with 
the public. Furthermore, the Policy Commissionís report recommends the 
establishment of a national research, development, and technology 
program given the fundamental importance of good performance data and 
modeling to all aspects of surface transportation programs. An 
important goal for research would be to improve the nationís ability to 
measure project performance, including research into improved traffic, 
safety, environmental, and energy modeling. 

Common Themes: Use Multiple Funding Sources: 

What GAO Has Said: 

We have previously reported that there is a need to address 
transportation funding challenges in the short and long term and no 
single mechanism will solve the existing and future funding crisis 
facing the nationís transportation system (see fig. 3). [Footnote 17] 
Participants in our 2007 forum on transportation policy generally 
agreed that it will take a variety of funding mechanisms to address 
projected transportation funding shortfalls. They said that the size 
and nature of the funding problems facing the transportation system 
simply cannot be solved by one mechanism. Participants said that the 
federal government needs to use its leverage with state and local 
transportation agencies to support the implementation of pricing 
initiatives, which some localities and regions currently are studying 
or are interested in adopting. In general, participants agreed that 
whatever funding mechanisms are chosen, investments should be designed 
to align fees and taxes with use and benefits and be better linked to 
the performance of all aspects of the transportation system. 
Participants suggested a variety of funding mechanisms, including: 

* taxes; 
* congestion pricing; 
* tolling; 
* public-private partnerships, and; 
* other user fees. 

Theme: 

The majority of the proposals we reviewed highlighted a need for 
multiple funding sources to ensure the long-term sustainability of the 
nationís surface transportation system. 

Suggestions: 

Proposals we reviewed acknowledged that more than one source of funding 
will be needed to support surface transportation programs. For example, 
in its report, the Policy Commission noted that during its research, 
many stakeholders recognized that all levels of government would need 
to employ a variety of funding mechanisms to meet the nationís large 
future investment requirements. Proposals also highlighted the benefits 
of employing user pay and pricing mechanisms for surface transportation 
programs to help ensure long-term sustainability. For example, the 
Financing Commissionís interim report suggests more direct user charges 
be explored for surface transportation, and the Policy Commission 
designed its recommendations to be user-funded. Finally, proposals 
highlight the importance of state and local governments having the 
flexibility and tools necessary to generate funding for surface 
transportation projects. For example, ARTBAís proposal suggests that 
new tolling authority for state governments can be a key means of 
addressing the nationís roadway capacity challenges and estimates that 
toll funding has the potential to address up to 10 percent of the 
nationís roadway funding needs. 

Figure 3: Actual and Projected Highway Account Receipts, Outlays, and 
Surpluses or Deficits, 2004 through 2013: 

[See PDF for image] 

This figure is a multiple line graph depicting the following data: 

Fiscal year: 2004 (actual); 
Outlays: $32 billion; 
Receipts: $29.8 billion; 
End of year surpluses or deficits: $10.8 billion. 

Fiscal year: 2005 (actual); 
Outlays: $33.1 billion; 
Receipts: $32.9 billion; 
End of year surpluses or deficits: $10.6 billion. 

Fiscal year: 2006 (actual); 
Outlays: $35.3 billion; 
Receipts: $33.7 billion; 
End of year surpluses or deficits: $9 billion. 

Fiscal year: 2007 (actual); 
Outlays: $35 billion; 
Receipts: $34.3 billion; 
End of year surpluses or deficits: $8.1 billion. 

Fiscal year: 2008 (projected); 
Outlays: $39.3 billion; 
Receipts: $34.2 billion; 
End of year surpluses or deficits: $3 billion. 

Fiscal year: 2009 (projected); 
Outlays: $1.3 billion; 
Receipts: $34.8 billion; 
End of year surpluses or deficits: -$3.5 billion. 

Fiscal year: 2010 (projected); 
Outlays: $41.6 billion; 
Receipts: $35.5 billion; 
End of year surpluses or deficits: -$9.6 billion. 

Fiscal year: 2011 (projected); 
Outlays: $42 billion; 
Receipts: $36 billion; 
End of year surpluses or deficits: -$15.6 billion. 

Fiscal year: 2012 (projected); 
Outlays: $42.8 billion; 
Receipts: $36.5 billion; 
End of year surpluses or deficits: -$21.9 billion. 

Fiscal year: 2013 (projected); 
Outlays: $43.7 billion; 
Receipts: $37.1 billion; 
End of year surpluses or deficits: -$28.5 billion. 

Source: CBO. 

[End of figure] 

Policy Commission Review: Policy Commissionís Recommendations Identify 
National Interest and Federal Role: 

What GAO Has Said: 

Given the proliferation of federal surface transportation programs over 
time, which has resulted in an amalgam of policy interests that may not 
accurately reflect current national priorities and concerns, we and 
others have cited the need to clearly define national interests, goals, 
and a federal role for surface transportation.[Footnote 18] For 
instance, in our previous work, we have called for a national strategy 
to define the national interest and federal role in freight 
transportation, as well as roles for other nonfederal stakeholders, and 
to determine which new or existing federal funding sources are needed 
to support the federal share.[Footnote 19] Participants in our 2007 
forum on transportation policy identified enhancing the mobility of 
people and goods, maintaining global competitiveness, improving 
transportation safety, minimizing adverse environmental impacts of the 
transportation system, and facilitating transportation security as the 
most important transportation policy goals.[Footnote 20] 

We and others have also previously identified the importance of 
breaking down modal stovepipes. Forum participants noted that the 
current federal structure, with its modal administrations and 
stovepiped programs and funding, frequently inhibits consideration of a 
range of transportation options at both the regional and the national 
levels.[Footnote 21] 

In its report, the Policy Commission identifies areas of national 
interest and recommends restructuring DOT to consolidate over 100 
existing programs into 10 core federal programs and eliminate modal 
stovepipes. The proposed new federal programs define the federal role 
and generally align with identified areas of national interest (see 
fig. 4). Specifically: 

* Some national interests and federal programs align directly. For 
example, a national asset management program aligns with the identified 
national interest in ensuring that facilities are well maintained. 

* Other national interests align with several proposed federal 
programs. For example, the identified national interest in ensuring 
reliable mobility is addressed by the Congestion Relief, Connecting 
America, and Intercity Passenger Rail programs. 

* Other identified national interests such as appropriately pricing 
systems and rational regulatory policy are more general in nature and 
refer to national policies that would be addressed by several programs. 
For instance, appropriately pricing systems could apply to freight 
transportation or mobility programs. 

Figure 4: Policy Commissionís Alignment of National Interest with 
Federal Programs: 

[See PDF for image] 

This figure is an illustration of the Policy Commissionís alignment of 
national interest with federal programs, as follows: 

National Interest: Facilities are well maintained; 
Federal Program: Rebuilding America: A national asset management 
program. 

National Interest: Freight movement is explicitly valued; 
Federal Program: Freight Transportation: A program to enhance U.S. 
global competitiveness. 

National Interest: Safety is assured; 
Federal Program: Saving Lives: A national safe mobility program. 

National Interest: Mobility within and between metropolitan areas is 
reliable; 
Federal Program: Congestion Relief: A program for improved metropolitan 
mobility; 
Federal Program: Connecting America: A national access program for 
smaller cities and rural areas; 
Federal Program: Intercity Passenger Rail: A program to serve high-
growth corridors by rail. 

National Interest: Transportation decisions and resource impacts are 
integrated; 
Federal Program: Environmental Stewardship: A transportation investment 
program to support a healthy environment; 
Federal Program: Energy Security: A proposal to accelerate the 
development of environmentally-friendly replacement funds. 

Source: GAO analysis of Policy Commission report. 

Note: Not all of the Policy Commissionís proposed areas of national 
interest and federal programs are listed in the figure. The Policy 
Commission points out that while the federal programs represent 
distinct areas of national interest, individual projects may contribute 
to achieving goals in multiple areas, and thus the programs cannot be 
considered completely independent. The Policy Commission believes that 
coordination among the planning activities required for each of the 
programs will be essential. 

[End of figure] 

Policy Commission Review: Questions Remain about the Impacts of Some 
Policy Commission Recommendations on the National Interest, Goals, and 
Federal Role: 

What GAO Has Said: 

We have previously reported that in light of the federal governmentís 
fiscal outlook, we cannot accept all federal government programs as 
ďgivens,Ē but must rethink existing programs, policies, and activities 
by reviewing their results relative to the national interest and by 
testing their continued relevance and relative priority.[Footnote 22] 
Where the national interest is greatest, the federal government may 
play a more direct role in setting priorities and allocating resources, 
as well as fund a higher share of program costs. Conversely, where the 
federal interest is less evidentófor example, where the economic 
benefits are more locally focused or there are varying regional 
preferencesóstate and local governments could be expected to assume 
more responsibility. With the national interest in surface 
transportation clearly defined, policymakers can clarify the goals for 
federal involvement. 

Policy Commissionís Recommendations on Funding Shares Do Not Reflect 
National Benefits: 

The Policy Commission recommends an 80/20 cost-sharing arrangement for 
transportation projects under most programsóthat is, the federal 
government would fund 80 percent of the project costs and the grantee 
(e.g., state government) would fund 20 percent. In addition, the Policy 
Commission recommends that the federal government pay 40 percent of 
overall national infrastructure capital costs. These proposed cost-
sharing arrangements suggest that the recommended level and share of 
federal funding reflects the benefits the nation receives from 
investment in the projectóthat is, the national interest. However, the 
report offers no evidence that this is the case. Rather, the proposed 
cost-sharing arrangements appear to reflect the historical funding 
levels of many surface transportation programs without considering 
whether this level of funding reflects the national interest or should 
vary by program or project or whether state and local governments could 
assume more responsibility. For example, the Policy Commission 
recommends that the federal government pay for 80 percent of the 
proposed intercity passenger rail system, primarily for capital costs. 
However, we have found that the nationís intercity passenger rail 
system does not effectively target federal funds to areas that provide 
the greatest public benefits, such as transportation congestion relief, 
raising questions as to whether a blanket 80 percent federal share is 
justified. Moreover, such a cost-sharing arrangement could raise the 
potential for states to substitute federal funds for their own, given 
that, as we have previously reported, state-supported routes have 
accounted for much of the growth in passenger rail in recent years, as 
states continue to increase spending for operations and capital 
improvements in order to accommodate regional growth. [Footnote 23] 

Policy Commissionís Recommendations Do Not Reflect a Complete 
Reexamination of Federal Goals and Roles: 

Although the Policy Commission recommends consolidating existing 
programs, it is unclear to what extent the Policy Commission considered 
cutting or devolving the authority for existing programs. For example, 
functions that other entities may perform better than the federal 
government could be turned back to the states and other levels of 
government. Moreover, once the national interest is defined, clear 
goals for federal involvement can help focus policy and optimize 
results. While the Policy Commission defines some goals based on areas 
of national interest, apart from goals for safety and mobility, the 
identified goals are not specific, measurable, or outcome-based. For 
example, the Policy Commission recommends that DOT establish national 
safety standards, beginning with the goal to cut surface transportation 
fatalities in half from current levels by 2025, but does not define 
similar goals for any of its other recommended programs. Without 
specific, outcome-based goals, it is difficult to ensure that resources 
will be targeted to projects that further the national interest. 

Policy Commission Review: Policy Commission Emphasizes Performance and 
Accountability for Results, but Some Details Are Not Fully in Line with 
Performance and Accountability Principles: 

What GAO Has Said: 

Our previous work has shown that an increased focus on performance and 
accountability for results could help the federal government target 
resources to programs that best achieve intended outcomes and national 
transportation priorities. Furthermore, we have previously reported 
that shifting from process-oriented structures such as mode-based grant 
programs to performance-based programs could improve project selection 
by removing barriers to funding intermodal projects and giving grantees 
greater flexibility to select projects based on the projectís ability 
to achieve results. [Footnote 24] Directly linking outcome-based goals 
to programs based on clearly defined national interests would also help 
to clarify federal surface transportation policy and create a 
foundation for a transparent and results-based relationship between the 
federal government and other transportation stakeholders. 

Policy Commission Emphasizes Performance and Accountability for 
Results: 

The Policy Commission emphasizes the need for performance-based surface 
transportation programs and recommends the development of national 
performance standards for the different federal programs with input 
from relevant stakeholders. State and local performance standards would 
form the basis for state and metropolitan-area plans, which would be 
consolidated into a national strategic plan for federal investment. 
Furthermore: 

* The development of national plans to accomplish key program goals 
would require states and metropolitan areas to include performance 
measures in their own transportation plans. According to the Policy 
Commission, developing performance standards that are applicable to all 
states and local governments will be challenging, but worth the effort. 

* State and local projects could receive funding only if they are 
listed in the plans and are shown to be cost-beneficial. 

* The Policy Commission emphasizes the need for quality research and 
development data in evaluating the effectiveness of projects. 

* The Policy Commission discusses a mechanism that would provide 
financial incentives and penalties based on performance. 

Some Details of the Policy Commissionís Recommendations Are Not Fully 
in Line with the Policy Commissionís Emphasis on Performance and 
Accountability: 

The Policy Commissionís recommendations do not generally link federal 
funding to performance using specific performance measures. For 
example: 

* The Policy Commission recommends that projects be funded on a cost-to-
complete basis, in which costs are updated as more information becomes 
available and work is performed. A cost-to-complete system could make a 
performance-based system more difficult to implement because, according 
to the Congressional Budget Office, this type of funding approach can 
create an incentive for states to increase needs or costs to capture 
more federal funding. 

* For most of the Policy Commissionís proposed federal programs there 
is a lack of specific, detailed goals or performance measures. Without 
specific, measurable, or outcome-based performance measures linked to 
clearly defined goals, it will be difficult to measure progress toward 
achieving national goals. 

While the Policy Commission proposes to break down existing modal 
stovepipes, the recommendations are not consistently mode-neutral. For 
example, the Policy Commission recommends developing a program for 
intercity passenger rail, while its other proposed programs are not 
specific to a particular mode. Focusing on particular modes could 
inhibit a performance-based consideration of a range of options. 

Policy Commission Review: The Policy Commission Recommends the Use of 
Some Best Tools, but Others Could Help Improve Results and Return on 
Investment: 

What GAO Has Said: 

Evidence suggests that increased federal highway grants influence 
states and localities to substitute federal funds for funds they 
otherwise would have spent on highways. We have previously estimated 
that states substituted roughly half of the increases in federal 
highway grants from 1983 to 2000 for state and local highway funding, 
and that the rate of substitution increased as federal funding was 
increased during the 1990s. Therefore, while state and local highway 
spending increased over time, it did not increase as much as it would 
have had states not withdrawn some of their own highway funds.[Footnote 
25] 

We and others, including those organizations whose proposals we 
reviewed, have identified a range of leading practices and best tools; 
however, their suitability varies depending on the level of federal 
involvement or control that policymakers desire for a given area of 
policy. These tools include cost-benefit analysis, congestion pricing, 
maintenance-of-effort requirements, and data collection. In competitive 
discretionary grant programs, the application of specific tools and 
approaches could be considered in evaluating proposals, just as the use 
of incentives or penalties could be considered in noncompetitive or 
formula-based grant programs. [Footnote 26] 

The Policy Commissionís Report Suggests the Use of Some Best Tools: 

Specifically, the Policy Commission: 

* supports the use of cost-benefit analysis to identify projects for 
funding; 

* discusses the importance of data collection for identifying emerging 
trends so that future decision makers can adapt to changing conditions; 
and; 

* recommends building maintenance-of-effort requirements into grants to 
mitigate the tendency to substitute federal funds for state and local 
resources. 

Although the Policy Commission Discusses the Use of Some Best Tools, 
Broader Strategies May Be Useful in Improving Results and Return on 
Investment: 

* The overall level of funding needed could be reduced by varying the 
federal match to reflect program benefits. Moreover, aligning funding 
with performance goals could improve the cost-effectiveness of programs 
and projects. Such changes could encourage state and local governments 
to increase their use of such tools as congestion pricing or technology 
to spread out demand. We have reported that the use of congestion 
mitigation techniques, including incident response vehicles that 
quickly restore traffic flow and ITS technology, such as timed traffic 
signals, can improve efficiency and system performance. 

* The Policy Commission suggests making projects with a positive cost-
benefit ratio eligible for federal funding, but given current fiscal 
constraints, it is unlikely that all such projects could receive 
funding. Clear criteria could be developed for prioritizing projects, 
thereby allowing limited federal funds to be targeted toward projects 
that best achieve identified goals, rather than any project that is 
considered cost-beneficial. We have also reported that the relationship 
of investments to national goals should be considered along with 
calculations of benefit and cost. 

* A competitive project selection process could be appropriate for 
ensuring that discretionary grant programs are aligned with national 
interests and transportation goals. We have previously reported that a 
competitive selection process with clearly defined selection criteria 
could help hold grant recipients accountable for results. [Footnote 27] 
For example, DOTís competitive selection process for the New Starts 
transit program requires projects to meet a set of established criteria 
in order to receive federal funding. 

* A requirement for grantees to conduct post-project evaluations would 
be useful in identifying leading practices and understanding project 
performance, especially because the available information indicates 
that the costs of highway and transit projects are often higher than 
originally anticipated. 

Policy Commission Review: The Policy Commission Recognizes the Need for 
New Funding Mechanisms, but Sustainability Depends on Careful 
Consideration of Key Issues: 

What GAO Has Said: 

We have previously reported that the effectiveness of any overall 
federal program design can be increased by incorporating strategies to 
ensure fiscal sustainability.[Footnote 28] Importantly, given the 
projected growth in federal deficits, constrained state and local 
budgets, and looming Social Security and Medicare spending commitments, 
the resources available for discretionary programs will be more 
limitedómaking it imperative to maximize the effectiveness of federal 
investment by rigorously examining the use of such funds. Furthermore, 
revenues to support the Highway Trust Fundóthe major source of federal 
highway and transit fundingócontinue to erode, raising questions about 
whether fuel taxes are a sustainable source of transportation 
funding.[Footnote 29] In addition, funding sources, including taxes and 
user fees, should be equitably assigned and reflect the different costs 
imposed by different users of the transportation system. 

Our previous work has also shown that federal, state, and local 
governments will begin to face growing fiscal challengesóthat is, 
absent policy changes, these governments will face an increasing gap 
between receipts and expenditures in the coming years. Since most state 
and local governments are required to balance or nearly balance their 
operating budgets in most years, the declining fiscal conditions 
foreshadow the extent to which these governments will need to make 
substantial policy changes to avoid these potential growing fiscal 
challenges.[Footnote 30] 

Policy Commission Recommends a Variety of Funding Mechanisms-- Most 
Based On the User Pay Principle--For Surface Transportation Programs: 

The Policy Commission recognizes that there is no silver bullet funding 
solution, and that it will like take a variety of approaches to ensure 
sustainability in both the short and long terms. For example, the 
Policy Commission discusses several strengths and limitations of the 
fuel tax and recognizes the need to plan for a future transition away 
from relying primarily on the fuel tax. The Policy Commission also 
discusses the possibility of a VMT tax or other solutions to replace 
the fuel tax as a primary revenue source for the future. Furthermore, 
most of the proposed funding mechanisms reflect the principle that 
users should pay for the infrastructure they use. In addition, the 
Policy Commission recommends that the federal government lift certain 
restrictions on tolling and recommends that public-private partnerships 
play an increased role in funding surface transportation. Finally, the 
Policy Commission recognizes that before federal financial support for 
surface transportation is increased, the nationís surface 
transportation programs need to be fundamentally reformed and that 
levels of taxes and fees need to be periodically adjusted based on the 
levels necessary to achieve national goals. 

Policy Commissionís Funding Recommendations Raise Issues to Consider: 

* It is not clear whether the Policy Commissionís funding 
recommendations are sustainable given the federal governmentís fiscal 
position and long-term pressures on the Highway Trust Fund. The federal 
role in transportation funding must be reexamined to ensure that it is 
sustainable in this new fiscal reality. Using the principles we have 
discussed, including employing tools and approaches that emphasize 
return on investment, could help surface transportation programs become 
more fiscally sustainable and more directly address national 
transportation priorities. 

* Competing priorities for federal, state and local governments, such 
as increasing demand for education and health care spending, strain the 
ability of these entities to invest more in infrastructure and to raise 
additional revenue through new or increased taxes or fees. Moreover, 
recommended spending levels by all levels of government raise questions 
about the ability of federal, state, and local governments to raise 
revenues to meet their expected share of investment. 

* Some funding mechanismsósuch as congestion pricing and tollingócan 
signal to drivers the cost of using the system at congested times. 
However, the Policy Commission recommends restrictions on the use of 
pricing, including limiting allowable toll increases. Such restrictions 
must be carefully crafted to avoid undermining the potential benefits 
that can be achieved. 

Scope and Methodology: Key Themes for Restructuring and Funding Surface 
Transportation Programs: 

To identify key themes raised by stakeholders for restructuring and 
funding surface transportation programs, we interviewed officials from 
a range of associations and research organizations representing various 
constituencies about issues to be addressed in the next surface 
transportation reauthorization (see the following list). We also 
reviewed and analyzed available literature, such as papers and 
restructuring proposals in various stages of development prepared by 
these stakeholders. Through these interviews and analyses, we 
determined that many groups had not yet developed formal restructuring 
proposals, and did not plan to develop proposals until later this year, 
limiting the number of proposals we could evaluate. As a result, we 
included seven restructuring proposals in our review, four of which 
were considered final, including the National Surface Transportation 
Policy and Revenue Study Commissionís (Policy Commission) proposal. 
[Footnote 31] We synthesized the key issues in these proposals and 
considered those that were identified by a majority (4 out of 7) of 
stakeholders as themes for restructuring surface transportation 
programs. Collectively these proposals represent diverse viewpoints and 
constituencies with respect to surface transportation programs. 

Stakeholders Contacted: 

Associations: 
American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials; 
American Road and Transportation Builders Association; 
American Trucking Association; 
American Public Transportation Association; 
Association of American Railroads; 
Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations; 
National Conference of State Legislatures; 
National Governors Association; 
National League of Cities Transportation for America Campaign; 
U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 

Research Organizations and Commissions: 
Bipartisan Policy Center; 
Brookings Institution; 
National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission; 
National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission; 
Reason Foundation. 

Scope and Methodology: Policy Commissionís Proposal for Restructuring 
and Funding Surface Transportation Programs: 

To determine the extent to which the Policy Commissionís proposal 
aligns with principles we have developed for evaluating proposals to 
restructure and fund surface transportation programs, [Footnote 32] we 
synthesized the Policy Commissionís recommendations and interviewed 
Policy Commissioners, including a dissenting Commissioner, [Footnote 
33] and commission staff to develop a further understanding of the 
reportís recommendations. We also developed a set of criteria for 
applying each of the principles using prior GAO work and GAO 
recommendations on reexamining the base of the federal government, 
including surface transportation programs. Specifically, for each 
principle we developed a list of questions and subquestions and 
evaluated each by applying a ďyes,Ē ďno,Ē or ďpartialĒ rating. We then 
summed up the ratings for each of the questions to develop an overall 
rating for each principle. Two analysts independently applied the 
criteria to the Policy Commissionís recommendations and a third analyst 
resolved any differences in the results. The full list of criteria 
developed for each of the principles appears in enclosure II. Finally, 
we supplemented our analysis with interviews of the various 
transportation stakeholders previously identified in order to gain an 
understanding of issues raised with respect to the Policy Commissionís 
recommendations for restructuring and funding surface transportation 
programs. 

We conducted this performance audit from October 2007 through July 2008 
in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. 
Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain 
sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our 
findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that 
the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and 
conclusions based on our audit objectives. 

Scope: 

We applied our restructuring principles only to the Policy Commissionís 
proposal for restructuring and funding surface transportation programs 
because (1) the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation 
Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) established this commission 
to provide a comprehensive review of existing programs and (2) a 
limited number of final restructuring proposals have been developed by 
other stakeholders. In addition, because these stakeholder groups 
represent various constituencies, they are not likely to provide a 
comprehensive proposal for restructuring surface transportation 
programs. 

GAO Contact: 

If you or your staff have any questions about this report, please 
contact JayEtta Z. Hecker at (202) 512-2834. 

Staff Acknowledgements: 

In addition to the individual named above, individuals making key 
contributions to this report were Nikki Clowers, Assistant Director; 
Elizabeth Argeris; Barbara Lancaster; Matthew LaTour; and Nancy Lueke. 

[End of enclosure] 

Enclosure II: Evaluation Criteria: 

The following criteria were used to evaluate the Policy Commissionís 
proposal to restructure surface transportation programs.[Footnote 34]: 

National Interest and Federal Role: 

Does the proposal identify well-defined goals based on identified areas 
of national interest? 

1. Are areas of national interest clearly defined? 

2. Are national goals identified and defined in relation to identified 
areas of national interest? Are the goals specific, measurable, and 
outcome-based? 

3. Are funding strategies compatible with identified national interests 
and goals, or are they contradictory? 

Does the proposal clearly define the federal role in achieving each 
goal? 

1. Is the federal role clearly defined? 

2. Is the federal role directly linked to defined areas of national 
interest and goals where there are national benefits? 

3. Is the federal role clearly defined in relation to the role of 
state, regional, and local governments? 

4. Is the federal role clearly defined in relation to the role of the 
private sector? 

5. Is the federal role clearly defined in relation to other sectors and 
national policies, specifically environmental, security, and energy 
policies? 

Performance and Accountability: 

Does the proposal recommend strategies to incorporate performance and 
accountability into funding decisions? 

1. Are national performance measures discussed and identified? 

2. Are options for distributing federal funds linked to performance in 
achieving national goals (i.e., are stakeholders held accountable for 
achieving results)? 

3. Are options for collecting reliable data to monitor and evaluate 
performance identified? 

Best Tools and Approaches: 

Does the proposal recommend strategies to maximize return on investment 
through the use of best tools and approaches? 

1. Are there strategies to ensure resources are targeted to yield the 
greatest benefits (on a national level) in relation to the investment? 

2. Are tools for evaluating performance identified? 

3. Does the proposal provide, suggest, or propose the use of the best 
possible funding options available? 

4. Are global cross-cutting issues, such as intermodal and 
interregional solutions, identified? 

Fiscal Sustainability: 

Do the recommendations ensure fiscal sustainability? 

1. Does the proposal reexamine current and future spending on surface 
transportation programs? 

2. Are the recommendations affordable and financially stable over the 
short term? 

3. Are the recommendations affordable and financially stable over the 
long term? 

4. Does the proposal consider future trends that could affect 
recommended funding strategies or the long-term financial 
sustainability of surface transportation programs? 

[End of enclosure] 

Enclosure III: List of Stakeholder Restructuring Proposals Reviewed: 

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. A 
New Vision for the 21st Century. July 2007: 

American Road and Transportation Builders Association. A New Vision and 
Mission for America's Federal Surface Transportation Program. November 
2007. 

Bipartisan Policy Center, National Transportation Policy Project. 
Commentary on the Report of the National Surface Transportation Policy 
and Revenue Study Commission. February 26, 2008. 

Brookings Institution. Blueprint for American Prosperity. A Bridge to 
Somewhere: Rethinking American Transportation for the 21st Century. 
June 2008. 

National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission. 
The Path Forward: Funding and Financing Our Surface Transportation 
System: Interim Report of the National Surface Transportation 
Infrastructure Financing Commission. February 2008. 

National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission. 
Transportation for Tomorrow: Report of the National Surface 
Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission. January 2008. 

Transportation for America Campaign. Making Transportation Work for 
America in the 21st Century. [hyperlink, http://www.t4america.org]. 

[End of enclosure] 

Enclosure IV: Related GAO Products: 

Surface Transportation: Restructured Federal Approach Needed for More 
Focused, Performance-Based, and Sustainable Programs. [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-08-400]. Washington, D.C.: March 
6, 2008: 

Highway Public-Private Partnerships: More Rigorous Up-front Analysis 
Could Better Secure Potential Benefits and Protect the Public Interest. 
[hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-08-44]. Washington, 
D.C., February 8, 2008. 

Surface Transportation: Preliminary Observations on Efforts to 
Restructure Current Program. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-
bin/getrpt?GAO-08-478T]. Washington, D.C.: February 6, 2008. 

Long-Term Fiscal Outlook: Action Is Needed to Avoid the Possibility of 
a Serious Economic Disruption in the Future. [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-08-411T]. Washington, D.C.: 
January 29, 2008. 

Freight Transportation: National Policy and Strategies Can Help Improve 
Freight Mobility. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-08-
287]. Washington, D.C.: January 7, 2008. 

State and Local Governments: Growing Fiscal Challenges Will Emerge 
during the Next 10 Years. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-
bin/getrpt?GAO-08-317]. Washington, D.C.: January 2008. 

A Call for Stewardship: Enhancing the Federal Government's Ability to 
Address Key Fiscal and Other 21st Century Challenges. [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-08-93SP]. Washington, D.C.: 
December 2007. 

Highlights of a Forum: Transforming Transportation Policy for the 21st 
Century. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-1210SP]. 
Washington, D.C.: September 2007. 

Surface Transportation: Strategies Are Available for Making Existing 
Road Infrastructure Perform Better. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-
bin/getrpt?GAO-07-920]. Washington, D.C.: July 26, 2007. 

Intermodal Transportation: DOT Could Take Further Actions to Address 
Intermodal Barriers. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-
07-718]. Washington, D.C.: June 20, 2007. 

Performance and Accountability: Transportation Challenges Facing 
Congress and the Department of Transportation. [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-545T]. Washington, D.C.: March 
6, 2007. 

High-Risk Series: An Update. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-
bin/getrpt?GAO-07-310]. Washington, D.C.: January 2007. 

Intercity Passenger Rail: National Policy and Strategies Needed to 
Maximize Public Benefits from Federal Expenditures. [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-15]. Washington, D.C.: 
November 13, 2006. 

Highway Finance: States' Expanding Use of Tolling Illustrates Diverse 
Challenges and Strategies. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-
bin/getrpt?GAO-06-554]. Washington, D.C.: June 28, 2006. 

21st Century Challenges: Reexamining the Base of the Federal 
Government. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-05-
325SP]. Washington, D.C.: February 2005. 

Highway and Transit Investments: Options for Improving Information on 
Projects' Benefits and Costs and Increasing Accountability for Results. 
[hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-05-172]. Washington, 
D.C.: January 24, 2005. 

Federal-Aid Highways: Trends, Effect on State Spending, and Options for 
Future Program Design. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-
bin/getrpt?GAO-04-802]. Washington, D.C.: August 31, 2004. 

[End of enclosure] 

Footnotes: 

[1] GAO, Surface Transportation: Restructured Federal Approach Needed 
for More Focused, Performance-Based, and Sustainable Programs, 
[hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-08-400] (Washington, 
D.C.: Mar. 6, 2008). 

[2] [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-08-400]. 

[3] For the purposes of this analysis, a proposal could be a report, 
recommendation, policy position, white paper, or other publication by 
one of the organizations included in our work. We reviewed proposals 
from the following organizations: the (1) National Surface 
Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission (final), (2) 
National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission, 
(3) American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials 
(final), (4) American Road and Transportation Builders Association 
(final), (5) Bipartisan Policy Center's National Transportation Policy 
Project, (6) Brookings Institution's Blueprint for American Prosperity 
(final), and (7) Transportation for America Campaign. 

[4] GAO, Freight Transportation: National Policy and Strategies Can 
Help Improve Freight Mobility. [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-
bin/getrpt?GAO-08-287] (Washington, D.C.: Jan. 7, 2008). 

[5] Maintenance-of-effort provisions require that states or local 
grantees maintain their own level of funding in order to receive 
federal funds. 

[6] Asset management strategies involve the systematic process of 
maintaining, upgrading, and operating transportation assets cost- 
effectively by applying engineering principles, sound business and 
economic practices, and a framework for planning and decision making. 

[7] [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-08-400]. 

[8] [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-08-400]. 

[9] For the purposes of this analysis, a proposal could be a report, 
recommendation, policy position, white paper, or other publication by 
one of the organizations included in our work. We reviewed proposals 
from the following organizations: the (1) National Surface 
Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission (Policy Commission), 
(2) National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission 
(Financing Commission), (3) American Association of State Highway and 
Transportation Officials (AASHTO), (4) American Road and Transportation 
Builders Association (ARTBA), (5) Bipartisan Policy Centerís National 
Transportation Policy Project, (6) Brookings Institutionís Blueprint 
for American Prosperity, and (7) Transportation for America Campaign 
(T4America). 

[10] [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-08-287]. 

[11] [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-08-287]. 

[12] GAO, Vehicle Economy Standards: Reforming Fuel Economy Standards 
Could Help Reduce Oil Consumption by Cars and Light Trucks, and Other 
Options Could Complement These Standards, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-921] (Washington, D.C.: Aug. 
2, 2007). 

[13] GAO, Highlights of a Forum: Transforming Transportation Policy for 
the 21st Century, [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-
1210SP] (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 19, 2007). 

[14] GAO, Surface Transportation: Strategies Are Available for Making 
Existing Road Infrastructure Perform Better, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-920] (Washington, D.C.: July 
26, 2007). 

[15] [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-08-400]. 

[16] GAO, Federal-Aid Highways: FHWA Needs a Comprehensive Approach to 
Improving Project Oversight, [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-
bin/getrpt?GAO-05-173] (Washington, D.C.: Jan. 31, 2005). 

[17] [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-1210SP]. 

[18] [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-08-400]. 

[19] [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-08-287]. 

[20] [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-1210SP]. 

[21] GAO, Surface Transportation: Preliminary Observations on Efforts 
to Restructure Current Program, [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-
bin/getrpt?GAO-08-478T] (Washington, D.C.: Feb. 6, 2008). 

[22] GAO, 21st Century Challenges: Reexamining the Base of the Federal 
Government, [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-05-325SP] 
(Washington, D.C.: February 2005). 

[23] GAO, Intercity Passenger Rail: National Policy and Strategies 
Needed to Maximize Public Benefits from Federal Expenditures, 
[hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-15] (Washington, 
D.C.: Nov. 13, 2006). 

[24] [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-08-400]. 

[25] GAO, Federal-Aid Highways: Trends, Effect on State Spending, and 
Options for Future Program Design, [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-
bin/getrpt?GAO-04-802] (Washington, D.C.: Aug. 31, 2004). 

[26] [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-08-400]. 

[27] [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-08-400]. 

[28] [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-08-478T]. 

[29] The fuel tax is the principal revenue source to support the 
Highway Trust Fund. 

[30] GAO, State and Local Governments: Growing Fiscal Challenges Will 
Emerge during the Next 10 Years, [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/cgi-
bin/getrpt?GAO-08-317] (Washington, D.C.: Jan. 22, 2008). 

[31] Other proposals and documents selected for inclusion in our review 
were from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation 
Officials (final), American Road and Transportation Builders 
Association (final), Brookings Institution (final), Bipartisan Policy 
Center, National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing 
Commission, and Transportation for America Campaign. 

[32] We developed these principles from prior analyses of existing 
surface transportation programs as well as a body of work that we have 
developed for Congress, including GAOís high-risk and performance and 
accountability reports. 

[33] Three of the 12 commissioners assigned to the Policy Commission 
provided supplemental minority, or dissenting, viewpoints to the 
reportís overall recommendations. 

[34] This enclosure does not include any of the subquestions we used to 
evaluate the Policy Commissionís proposal. 

[End of section] 

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