STATEMENT OF SENATOR JOHN H. CHAFEE
COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS
SUBCOMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE
OVERSIGHT HEARING ON THE REAUTHORIZATION OF THE INTERMODAL SURFACE TRANSPORTATION EFFICIENCY ACT
MARCH 6, 1997

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to thank all of the witnesses for appearing before the Subcommittee this morning.

Today's hearing is important, as it will give us insight on new ways to finance out substantial infrastructure needs, more efficient methods to design and build transportation infrastructure, and innovative technologies to help us manage and operate our current transportation system.

A considerable gap exists between transportation infrastructure needs and available resources. Trying to balance the Federal budget makes the challenge of bridging this gap all the more difficult. Now more than ever we must preserve the strengths of the transportation system we have in place, yet we also must anticipate the future and address new problems with innovative solutions. Finding the right solutions requires creative approaches.

The ISTEA reauthorization process should reach out for ideas on creative ways of financing our infrastructure needs. Fiscal constraints at all levels of government make this effort imperative.

As I said during last week's hearing, I am pleased that the Administration has decided to make innovative finance initiatives such as State Infrastructure Banks and credit enhancement priorities in its ISTEA reauthorization proposal. I am hopeful that these and other innovative finance solutions can help meet the nation's needs for new facilities, where these types of techniques are most easily developed.

Another area where the ISTEA reauthorization can break new ground is in encouraging the private sector to take a more active role in the design, construction, financing, and operation of transportation facilities. I am proud to have cosponsored a bill with Senators Warner, Moynihan and Bond, that will allow the private sector to gain access to tax-exempt bond financing for certain highway projects. Giving private enterprise this incentive will offer opportunities for construction cost savings, better operation, and new design and construction techniques.

Innovative technology also will play a critical role in addressing new challenges ahead. Transportation technologies afford a wide array of benefits. They relieve traffic congestion and improve safety. They also provide timely information to travelers and more efficient methods to design and build transportation infrastructure.

A key forward-looking initiative of ISTEA is the Intelligent Transportation Systems, or ITS program. ITS technologies provide new options for transportation planners to address safety and capacity concerns without the negative environmental and social effects of expanding the physical footprint of a highway. Today, we will learn about some of the more notable ITS technologies, including in-vehicle navigation systems, traffic and incident management systems, and "fast toll" technologies.

I would like to close by commending the progress that has been made under ISTEA. The innovative programs that are the focus of today's hearing are integral elements of ISTEA's forward-looking approach. Without the strategic investment that accompanies such innovation, it will be impossible to maximize federal resources in the future. It is therefore my hope that innovative finance and new technologies will be top priorities in the ISTEA reauthorization.