STATEMENT OF SENATOR JOHN H. CHAFEE
COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS
SUBCOMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE
OVERSIGHT HEARING ON REAUTHORIZATION OF THE
INTERMODAL SURFACE TRANSPORTATION EFFICIENCY ACT
FEBRUARY 13, 1997

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I welcome the opportunity to take part in this, the first hearing of the new Congress on reauthorization of the Inter Modal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act. Let me point out that ISTEA expanded the focus of national policy, recognizing that the individual transportation modes function best as a cohesive and interrelated system. It transformed what was simply a highway program into a surface transportation program dedicated to the mobility of passengers and goods.

The purpose of today's hearing is to receive testimony on transportation trends, funding requirements, and the impact of transportation on the economy. Transportation plays a critical role in the national and global economy. In the United States, it employs more than 12 million people; consumes one of every five dollars of total household spending; and accounts for 11 percent of the nation's gross domestic product.

There has been a great deal of emphasis on the level of funding for transportation, but minimal attention to the question of which transportation investments will yield the highest return in the future.

Now more than ever, strategic investment in transportation is critical. During the 1950s and 1960s, it made the most sense for the nation to build an interstate highway system. Today, we need to be more creative. We must carefully plan and allocate limited resources. I am interested in hearing what our panelists have to say about which transportation projects and programs will provide the greatest economic benefits in the future.

Wise transportation investment decisions are largely a question of what will generate the most efficient flow of people and goods. Along those lines, we must keep a watchful eye on travel trends as we make tough transportation policy choices.

ISTEA was a major step in reorienting the focus on personal and commercial travel. Transportation decisions now have become part of a larger planning process. A process that recognizes how transportation touches every corner of our lives. Policy makers and planners must be flexible in adapting to constantly changing transportation needs.

We are a far different nation than we were when the Interstate System was created. The way we live, the way we travel, and even the amount of money we have to spend on transportation all have changed---and will continue to change. We must maintain the strengths of the transportation system we have in place---but we must build upon them, too.

I look forward to learning more about these very important issues. Thank you.