The National Governors Assn. (NGA) is kicking off a 10-month research effort to help states improve their transportation and land-use strategies to reduce traffic congestion, improve the flow of commerce, and reduce transportation’s impact on the environment.

“While this is not a specific effort designed around freight, improving the movement of goods is an overarching goal of this effort to improve the efficiency of our transportation networks,” Sue Gander, director of the NGA’s environment, energy, and natural resources division, told FleetOwner. “Improving the flow of goods is one of the [transportation] problems and challenges we face today, and is tied directly to economic development issues.”

“The U.S. transportation system is facing significant challenges that affect states in all regions of the country – areas both urban and rural – and impact consumers and industries across multiple economic sectors,” said John Thomasian, director of the NGA’s Center for Best Practices. “States that begin to adjust their approach to transportation and land use planning have the opportunity to increase mobility and transportation choices, enhance economic growth and competitiveness, lower emissions, improve quality of life and make smart investment decisions.”

NGA is working with five states – Colorado, Maryland, Tennessee, Washington and West Virginia – to develop and implement transportation and land-use solutions over the next 10 months. Funding for this program comes from the Rockefeller Foundation, with additional funding from the Surdna Foundation.

“While this effort is focused on state policy makers, our hope is that any ‘best practice’ actions adopted by the states will be reflected at the national level in any Congressional [transportation] actions,” Gander noted.

Some of the initiatives being tested by NGA and the five states participating in this program include:

  • Establishing new governance models, such as a cabinet-level office or a new regulatory body, to align infrastructure development and state goals;
  • Creating a new planning framework that addresses the state’s unique needs and concerns for mobility, accessibility, emissions, financial stability, demographics, climate and topography;
  • Adapting new funding and financing approaches that better reflect user costs and benefits, manage demand and help pay for transportation system management and maintenance;
  • Developing enhanced goals and metrics that best reflect the state’s transportation goals.

NGA refers to this effort as a “policy academy,” comprised of interactive teams to address a complex public policy issue. The participating states receive guidance and technical assistance from NGA and faculty experts, as well as consultants from the private sector, research organizations, academia and the federal government. The strategies and policies developed by the selected states are intended to serve as ideas and best practices for all states, added Gander.