Formula programs are necessary to ensure baseline funding for transportation, but funding that flows automatically for specified purposes does not allow for innovation and flexible action. Innovation happens when local leaders are freed to design projects that solve particular problems and help communities meet their economic and quality-of-life aspirations.
Inspiration comes from seeing great ideas emerge from competition and put into practice. Progress comes from widespread replication of the best ideas.
Rather than merely dole out all federal transportation funds by formula, our national program needs to spur competition, reward innovative proposals, identify successes and share the lessons learned.