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Setting the Stage for National Transportation Policy To the Year 2020: The Surface Transportation and Uniform Relocation Assistance Act of 1987


Not widely know to the public policy community outside transportation is the fact that the Interstate Highway System is almost finished. By 1992, if all goes as planned, the United States will have a completed, fully mature Interstate transportation system. Even less known is the fact that federal gas taxes could be extended, thus revenues would continue to "roll" in.

So large a "pot of gold" is enormous temptation. It tantalizes other underfunded public services, that may mistakenly believe surface transportation has had its day. In part anticipating a "raid," the surface transportation technical community is developing a coalition, the "2020 Plan," to build a consensus similar to the pre-Interstate era (1955-56). If successful, future surface transportation needs will continue to be funded by gas tax revenues from the highway trust fund.

On what should the funds be spent?

- existing surface highway and urban mass transportation system repair, restoration, and minor additions?

- major new highway/urban mass transportation construction and operation?

- identifying, designing and building a new transport system, yet to be selected?

Discussion at this preliminary stage is exploratory and growing. By no means has a consensus been developed, but vast needs have been identified.

To more fully understand how we got, legislatively, to this point, research focuses on a critical piece of transition legislation, the Surface Transportation and Uniform Relocation Assistance Act of 1987. The statute concludes an era beginning with the Interstate System in 1956 and redirected by the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982. It clearly sets the stage for policy issue debates in 1992 and beyond to 2020. Research compares the three important statutes by selected major factors affecting each period of congressional debate, and relevance to fundamental program goals. A goal framework is suggested for considering future transportation legislation.

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