Eno to Curate and Maintain STPP’s Archives
November 15, 2019|Robert Puentes
In the fall of 1990, a group of organizations got together to make the case that a comprehensive transportation policy serving economic, environmental, and social interests was vital to the future of the United States. While that may seem like an obvious argument now, it was fairly novel 30 years ago. That coalition was known then as the Surface Transportation Policy Project (STPP) and effectively kicked-off the national transportation reform movement.
The next year, STPP released a forward-looking policy platform called Acting in the National Interest: The Transportation Agenda. That document helped inform the drafting of federal transportation legislation: the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) of 1991. ISTEA is rightly considered a watershed moment in U.S. transportation policy. It offered a new framework for thinking about transportation by assuring states and metropolitan areas of specific levels of funding and giving them the flexibility needed to design transportation mixes that met their needs. Spurred on by these reforms, a small but increasing number of states and localities began to experiment with a more balanced mix by expanding and preserving highways, addressing the needs of older and newer communities, and deciding between building roads or enlarging public transit systems.
In the years that followed, STPP played a major role in monitoring trends, assessing programs, and advocating for additional reforms. The coalition worked inside Washington to impact future transportation authorizations, and on policy implementation across the country. As transportation policy discussions evolved, STPP’s transitioned into other affiliated organizations including Reconnecting America, Smart Growth America, Transportation for America, and the OneRail Coalition. This year, STPP officially closed-up shop.
While national transportation policy has come a long way in three decades, there is so much we can still learn from STPP. For example, recent Eno work shows we’ve essentially shifted focus from transportation in service of the national interest to the share of total funding states receive each year. And despite the federal framework set out in ISTEA, more often than not, investment choices are made on the basis of consensus building through logrolling. This means that funds are spread around essentially like peanut butter, rather than through a clear system of prioritization. Certainly, this is not what ISTEA’s framers had in mind.
Eno is committed to maintaining the online archive for STPP. On that website you will find a complete archive of reports, newsletters, and commentary. With major national surface transportation decisions coming before us in the coming years, we hope it can continue to serve as a helpful guide.