Mark Warner on Transportation

As governor of Virginia, Mark Warner often wondered why Congress, with 535 members, couldn’t come up with a national transportation policy. Now that he’s a freshman Democratic senator, “I have a better understanding,” he says.

Congressional oversight on transportation is divided among so many committees and subcommittees, it’s hard to achieve consensus on such broad policy.

“We need to look at a fundamental reorganization of how we address transportation issues,” Warner said at a recent conference on infrastructure strategies and competitiveness sponsored by the Departments of Commerce and Transportation.

“It’s essential from a policy perspective, because we cannot simply continue forward under the current system of stovepipes where more than 100 distinct federal transportation programs are governed by different congressional oversight.”

Transportation policy, including freight policy, is important to Warner, who serves on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, where a national freight transportation policy bill was introduced last week.

In March, Warner introduced language in this year’s budget resolution requiring cost-benefit analysis and performance measurements for multimodal transportation programs.

“Applying sound business principles to transportation will make these programs more transparent,” Warner said at the time. “It also will allow better and more efficient use of a modern transportation system all across the country.”

Warner wants to extend the business-based performance measurement model across transportation policy in Washington, starting with one of the hosts of the May 11 infrastructure conference, the Department of Transportation.

“If there ever was an agency that was ripe for reinvention, it’s DOT,” he said.

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