The Transportation Research Board, a part of the operating arm of the National Academies, is now having its annual meeting in Washington, DC, an event which attracts 10,000 transportation professionals from around the world to 3,000 presentations on topics from the effectiveness of concrete pavement design features to the role of transit-oriented development in livable communities. I’ll be posting a few notes from the conference.
One thing was clear from my first day at this year’s event: participants are very excited about the possibilities for rail projects in the near future. This is not surprising, as the Obama administration dedicated $8 billion to high-speed rail in the economic recovery bill and officials are now figuring out how to allocate that money.
However, participants also seemed focused on the grim realities of the recession, and how to get through them. For instance, I noticed an intense interest in innovative transportation financing mechanisms, also not surprising, as many of the meeting’s attendees are state and local government officials facing growing budget deficits. Sessions I attended focused on the increased interest in tolling and user fees, how to make them more palatable to constituents, and best practices for public-private partnerships.
The spotlight theme for this year’s meeting is “Investing in Our Transportation Future – Bold Ideas to Meet Big Challenges.” Sessions will cover virtual public involvement, transportation finance, self-enforcing roads, carpooling, new urban street design, distance-based user fees, transportation issues in mega-regions, and much more. I look forward to attending some in the coming days!