I'm pleased to say that my home state of Missouri has always been a leader in the area of transportation.
In 1808, King's Highway, from St. Louis to southeast Missouri, became the first legally designated road west of the Mississippi River.
In 1929 Missouri was the first state to protect and earmark funds for highway purposes.
In 1956 Missouri became the first state to accept bids and begin construction on the Dwight D. Eisenhower Interstate Highway System. The first stretch of interstate road on which work actually began anywhere in the country was Interstate 70 in St. Charles, Missouri.
It is undeniable that our interstate highway system has over the years stimulated economic growth, saved thousands of lives, and has provided its users the freedom of mobility. Without the first class system of interstate highways that we now have, life in Missouri and the rest of the country would be far different.
The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991, or the "1991 Highway Bill" was landmark legislation that enabled us to craft a new generation of highway and transit programs. The "1991 Highway Bill" provided the road map of my vision for the future: easy access for every community of any size to a modern, safe road -- roads that connect in a grid, the National Highway System. The NHS helps make the entire world Missouri's backyard!!
As we continue the discussions and debate on the transportation act which will move us into the next century, we must build the policy solidly on our commitment to the concrete and asphalt reality that the nation's road and bridges are and will continue to be the foundation of our transportation system. The new policy will only be as good as the foundation on which it is built.
Moving our transportation policy into the 21st Century will be a challenge. We must continue to ensure the safety of the traveling public, provide access for all our citizens, address environmental impacts, attempt to resolve congestion, continue research and development, enhance public participation, recognize the changing demographics of our country, and determine the financing options available. The nation's continued economic growth and personal mobility depends on a transportation system that grows with the country--not one that falls apart at the seams.
Mr. Chairman--I look forward to working with you again on ensuring that not only Virginia and Missouri get an equitable return from the Highway Trust Fund, but also on ensuring that our transportation policy supports the country's growing needs and trends as we move into the 21st Century.