Good morning, Chairman Warner and Members of the Committee. I am David Gardiner, Assistant Administrator of Policy, Planning and Evaluation at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). I am pleased to be here today with Acting Administrator Jane Garvey of the Federal Highway Administration to offer EPA's perspective on the National Economic Crossroads Transportation Efficiency Act (NEXTEA).
Transportation gives form and function to our great country; it is an inherent factor in nearly every aspect of life. Our transportation network enables-us to maximize our economic potential, provides us with unprecedented amounts of personal freedom, and gives us both a figurative and literal path to the things we want in life.
It also exacts a price upon the environment. These problems manifest themselves in many forms, including: local air pollution (such as smog and particulate matter), water pollution, habitat fragmentation, and contributions to climate change. Environmental costs are real, and they impact the economy.
NEXTEA is important to the EPA because sound transportation policy is sound environmental policy. Last week, the President echoed this sentiment when he said, "Make no mistake about it, [NEXTEA] is one of the most important pieces of environmental legislation that will be considered by the Congress in the next two years. And I think it should be thought of in that way."
The EPA strongly supports this statement and the positions set forth in the Administration's bill because it will help our mission of providing clean air, clean water, and protecting public health. In 1991, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) recognized that the transportation sector can be used to improve public health, improve the quality of our environment, improve the economy, and improve the quality of life of our citizens. The continuation of the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement and Transportation Enhancements Programs are important steps to ensuring that this happens.
Sound transportation policy is also sound economic and community policy. How and where we lay out our transportation network can have great impacts on whether downtowns and neighborhood communities prosper, whether we can safely walk across the street, or whether those without automobiles can shop, get to their place of work or to educational opportunities. EPA supports the Administration's philosophy of "local solutions to local problems". The public involvement requirement in ISTEA is one of the things that makes it so successful. It empowers the citizen to have an impact, and it needs to stay in the legislation.
ISTEA is good policy; NEXTEA preserves it. Today, I would like to talk with you about how transportation affects the environment, and then discuss how the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement and Enhancements programs have helped improve-environmental quality. I also will discuss why the flexibility and public participation opportunities created by ISTEA are so important for helping communities and EPA achieve their environmental goals.
2. Environmental Impacts of Transportation
In 1991, ISTEA acknowledged the explicit federal role in addressing the environmental impacts of transportation. I present these impacts in four categories: air quality, water and habitat quality, climate change, and solid waste.
a. Air Quality
Nationally, air quality has improved substantially, contemporaneously with strong economic growth, population growth, and increased vehicle miles traveled (VMT). EPA analysis shows that mobile source emissions, which contribute significantly to overall emissions, dropped substantially between 1986 and 1995:
-- CO emissions declined 21 percent during that time period;
-- NOx emissions fell 2 percent;
-- ozone precursors (hydrocarbons) fell 9 percent; and,
-- PM-10 emissions declined by 17 percent
These national long-term air quality improvements translate to cleaner air on the local level. When the Clean Air Act was amended in 1990, there were 140 million citizens living in 98 ozone non-attainment areas. Progress in ozone mitigation led to the redesignation of 29 of those ares. Of the remaining 69 non-attainment areas, 40 had met the first qualification for redesignation: they had not had a violation of the standard for over 3 years. Nearly one third of the affected citizens now live in areas that meet the ozone standard. PM-10 non-attainment areas have decreased only slightly, from 83 to 81. However, 35 PM-10 non-attainment areas have been meeting the standard and have not yet been redesignated. In 1990, there were 42 CO non-attainment areas; in 1995, 34 were meeting the NAAQS for CO.
Americans continue to increase their travel activity, and this has important implications for air quality. In 1970, the Nation logged an estimated 1.1 trillion VMT. By the end of 1995, the VMT total had more than doubled to just over 2.4 trillion miles annually. Between 1983 and 1993, motorists increased their VMT more than 39 percent.
In addition to the national increase, it is evident that vehicle travel in some areas of the nation has out paced others, with some seeing a doubling of VMT in 10 years or less. Generally, there has been a substantial and growing divergence between urban and rural VMT growth. This urban-rural gap has continued to widen over the last 20 years, largely because of continued metropolitan development incorporating both the expansion of urban boundaries and the rapid growth in suburb-to-suburb commuting. For the period described above--1983 to 1993-urban VMT increased nearly 49 percent, while corresponding rural VMT growth was less than 27 percent.
To date, ISTEA and the Clean Air Act has helped states and localities across the country make great strides in mitigating mobile source pollution. These reductions have been achieved by reducing emissions at the tailpipe through technological advances, cleaner fuels, and better inspection/maintenance facilities. But the critical question remains will environmental control technology be able to keep pace with increasing VMT. Based on current Clean Air Act requirements EPA models show that:
CO emissions from on-road vehicles are predicted to decline from 48,874 thousand short tons in 1996 to 44,525 thousand short tons in 2002. By 2010, CO emissions are predicted to increase to 46,749 thousand short tons. NOx emissions' from on-road vehicles are predicted to decline from 7,041 thousand short tons in 1996 to 6,2$ I thousand short tons by 2005. By 2010, NOx emissions are expected to increase to 6,495 thousand short tons. Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) emissions from on-road vehicles are predicted to decline from 5,147 thousand short tons in 1996 to 4,578 thousand short tons in 2005. By 2010, VOC emissions are expected to increase to 4,726 thousand short tons.
Technological improvements in vehicle technology and fuels have kept emission trends on a downward path for the past twenty-five years, and may continue to do so in the future. The Clean Air Act requires EPA to evaluate whether additional technology based programs will be necessary and feasible such as National Low Emission Vehicle program, and tighter Tier II emission standards. Methods for improving vehicle durability and maintenance requirements are also being evaluated. Strategies to reduce VMT would also help preserve our air quality improvements, and protect public health and the environment.
b. Water and Habitat Quality
Transportation also has great impacts upon our soils and lands, upon our water and wetlands, and upon our flora and fauna. Water quality is generally affected by transportation in three ways: run-off from new construction and existing highways, air deposition, and wetland loss.
Runoff pollution is that associated with rainwater or melting snow that washes off highway pavements and bridge decks and other impervious surfaces. As it flows over these surfaces, the water picks up dust and dirt, rubber and metal deposits from tire and engine wear, oil and grease that has dripped onto the pavement, pesticides and fertilizers, antifreeze, and debris. These contaminants as well as those associated with highway construction and maintenance are washed from highways and bridges and carried into our lakes, rivers, streams, and oceans.
In the snowbelt, road salts can be a major pollutant in both urban and rural areas. Melting snow runoff containing deicing salts can produce high sodium and chloride concentrations in ponds, lakes, and bays causing fish kills and changes to water chemistry. Road salts can also contribute to damage roadside vegetation to cause erosion. Erosion produces sedimentation which can choke aquatic organisms in receiving waters.
The transportation sector generates NOx, which reacts in the atmosphere to become an acid, thus contributing to acidic deposition. EPA's,Chesapeake Bay Program reports that acidic deposition from transportation accounts for approximately 9% of all nitrogen in the Bay. Nitrogen (and other pollutants) directly affect the vitality of the Bay.
Prior improvements to the nation's transportation infrastructure have contributed to the loss and degradation of wetlands and other habitats. Wetlands mitigation provisions within ISTEA have provided the resources and flexibility needed to offset wetlands losses resulting from transportation projects. For example, ISTEA has provided support for wetlands mitigation banking activities throughout the country. Mitigation banking increases the ecological benefits of wetlands compensatory mitigation efforts, while also facilitating the permitting of highway projects. Ensuring that ISTEA continues to provide the resources and flexibility needed to offset unavoidable impacts to wetlands,will help us to achieve the Administration's interim goal of no overall net loss of the nation's remaining wetlands and the long-term goal of increasing the quality and quantity of the nation's wetlands resource base.
c. Climate Change
Transportation accounted for nearly one-third of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions from the U.S. in 1990 and the transportation sector is expected to have the fastest growth in greenhouse gas emissions of any part of the U.S. economy during this decade. This growth is the result of two trends; the average fuel economy of the new personal vehicle fleet has decreased since 1988, and the number of miles driven by Americans continues to rise. The drop in fuel economy is largely a result of a shift toward larger vehicles, such as sport utility vehicles, that have lower gas mileage than cars. While some vehicle models may be getting better mileage over time; as a nation we are buying more of the less efficient models. The causes of the increase in number of miles driven are more complicated and include population shifts to urban fringes.
Global Climate Change has emerged as an important environmental concern. An international consortium of scientists has recently concluded that human-induced climate change has begun. The 1996 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Global Climate Change expressed a scientific consensus that man-made "greenhouse gases"--including carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and methane--are building up in the Earth's atmosphere, and that the temperature of the atmosphere is increasing as a result. This rise in temperature is referred to as global climate change, global warming, or the greenhouse effect. Although the predicted increase in average global temperature may not seem like much--an increase between 1.8 and 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit is predicted--scientists believe that it will be enough to cause sea levels to rise, although the precise timing of when this might happen is unclear. Changes-in temperature and rainfall in particular regions are more difficult to predict and the impact on different ecosystems remains uncertain. Nevertheless, agriculture, aquaculture, and plants and animals will have to adapt or move as the climates and habitats that support them change.
3. NEXTEA and Environmental Protection
a. Congestion Mitigation Air Quality Improvement Program
Air quality control under ISTEA and the Clean Air Act have been an environmental success story. Pollution from vehicles has been substantially reduced. Many areas, however, still face substantial challenges, and will continue to need the type of flexible support provided by CMAQ. Funding under the CMAQ program, unlike many other Federal-aid highway programs, is not limited to traditional highway uses, and the program has funded many innovative projects such as I/M programs aimed at reducing emissions and other programs focusing on vehicles and fuels. One of CMAQ's successes has been to open up the transportation planning process to allow projects to compete on their air-quality merits, an important ISTEA goal. The program also has been successful at empowering Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) and furthering the ISTEA goal of allowing local decision makers to select projects. Finally, the CMAQ program has invited new players into the planning process.
Under NEXTEA, new air quality nonattainment areas, resulting from the proposed PM and ozone NAAQS, would be eligible for money from the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program upon submission of a SIP to EPA. The President's FY 1998 budget would increases CMAQ finding to $1.3 billion per year from $1.0 billion in FY 1997. Additional money will be transferred to CMAQ from the Surface Transportation Program when new nonattainment areas become eligible for CMAQ money, as necessary, to ensure no state will lose CMAQ funds.
Transit improvement projects have been the recipient of the largest share of CMAQ funding since the start of the program, accounting for approximately 47 percent of all obligations between 1992 and 1995. As of October 1995, more than $1.7 billion had been transferred for transit- related air quality improvement projects. Highway traffic flow improvement projects, specifically identified as Traffic Control Measures (TCMs) in the CAA if they reduce emissions, have accounted for 31 percent of CMAQ resources. Transit and highway traffic flow improvements together continue to receive about 75 percent of available CMAQ funding. On a lesser scale, funding for pedestrian/bicycle, shared-ride, and other less traditional TCM-type projects generally ranges between 10 and 15 percent of CMAQ funding obligations.
Traffic Control Measures
Most of the emissions reductions achieved to date have been through the CAA's long-term focus on reducing tailpipe and evaporative emissions, and clean fuels program. As increasingly stricter tailpipe standards have been put in place, automakers have responded by producing lower emission vehicles that can meet the standard. If VMT growth outpaces existing tailpipe controls, CMAQ can provide communities the flexibility to rely more one TCMs to help reduce VMT.
Although TCMs may not yield, in the short run, as large an air quality benefit as some of the more effective mobile source strategies, there are ample other reasons to fiend them. Most notably, congestion continues to strangle many metropolitan areas and without TCMs to increase the supply of transportation alternatives and demand management strategies like pricing, these areas have few ways to address their growing congestion mitigation needs. Hence, programs like CMAQ are needed for a variety of reasons. The CMAQ program has been instrumental in furthering the empowerment of MPOs, a key goal of ISTEA. It also has invited local citizens and officials into the transportation planning process.
The effectiveness of TCMs is directly linked to the low-density development pattern prevalent throughout the United States, which virtually necessitates automobile ownership and use. TCMs that increase the supply of transportation alternatives must address the geographically diverse origins and destinations that low-density development fosters. A focus that has gained some acceptance within the transportation and air quality communities, is to increase the accessibility of alternative to automobiles such as transit, bicycling, or walking.
CMAQ Success Stories
The CMAQ program already has funded hundreds of innovative projects. These are examples of quality planning efforts that are environmentally friendly and contribute to the social and economic needs of the community. As I have said before, good environmental policy is good economic policy. Since economic development is of tantamount importance to most cities, I must point out some of the many cases where these programs have been successfully used.
Glendale Parking Management: In private partnership with the Glendale Transportation Management Associates, Glendale, California, two private companies have implemented a 3-year demonstration program to reduce the number of employees driving to work alone. The companies reward employees who choose alternatives to driving alone carpools, vanpools, walking, bicycling, and transit. The program combines a graduated parking charge for all employees with incentives such as prizes, awards, and-one of the most valued incentives-the Guaranteed Ride Home Program. As evidence of its success, this project earned the Federal Highway's 1995 Environmental Excellence Award in the CMAQ Program category.
Freeway Service Patrol--The Freeway Service Patrol, managed by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the FSP alleviates long delays caused by disabled vehicles that account for 50 percent of the traffic congestion in the San Francisco metropolitan area. A fleet of 52 FSP trucks patrols more than 200 miles of the Bay Area's most congested freeways, clearing over 9,000 incidents every month. Aided by the latest communications technology, the FSP truck drivers rescue stranded motorists. By alleviating start-and-stop travel and vehicle idling due to traffic jams, the FSP also has decreased overall fuel consumption and helped reduce harmful air pollution from motor vehicles.
b. Enhancements Program
The Enhancements Program provides funding for activities that increase transportation options. Enhancements are designed to boost local economies, promote and increase multi-modal and overall non-motorized travel, and protect the environment. Enhancements funds may be used for ten different kinds of projects. They are: bicycle and pedestrian facilities; acquisition of scenic or historic sights; archaeological planning and research; scenic or historic highway programs, landscaping and scenic beautification; historic preservation; preservation of abandoned railway corridors; control and removal of outdoor advertising; mitigation of water pollution due to highway runoffs and rehabilitation and operation of historic transportation facilities. Nation-wide, $2.4 billion was made available over the 6 year life of ISTEA (1992-1997) for the Enhancements Program.
Transportation Enhancements funding fills a vital role in mitigating the impacts of transportation and protecting the environment. Transportation is a significant source of air and water pollution, wetlands loss, habitat destruction and loss of open space. Historically, transportation planning focused more on the automobile, with less regard for alternative modes or the impacts on the community. The Enhancements Programs provides balance to those circumstances where wide roads and highways have cut off communities from their neighbors, increased traffic noise, and discouraged bicycle and pedestrian travel.
Enhancements funding has provided states and communities with the opportunity to fix the problems that are caused by traditional transportation projects. State and local transportation officials say that many enhancements-like projects would never have been undertaken without the enhancements program. Projects such as rails-to-trails, greenways, and bicycle/pedestrian paths support non-motorized transportation, provide increased mobility, provide recreational opportunities, increase economic development, clean the air, reduce non-point source water pollution, and encourage multi-modal transportation. Landscaping and historic preservation projects are popular on the local level. They provide tangible benefits which enhance livability and provide a sense of community. Historic sites often increase tourism and can act to strengthen the local economy.
The Enhancement Program Expands Transportation Alternatives and Promotes Economic Development
The Katy Trail -- This 235-mile Missouri trail traverses nine counties and adjoins 35 towns ranging in population from 60 to 60,000. These communities initially were opposed to the trail, fearing an increase in vandalism from the users of the trail. Instead, restaurants, bed-and-breakfasts, wineries, bicycle rental shops, antique dealers, and campgrounds all opened to meet visitor needs. A user survey on the trail's western half showed that trail visitors generated an estimated $3 million in local revenue.
Accommodating Pedestrians -- Naples, FL, installed a network of sidewalks to make it quicker and safer to walk downtown. The city has a street system which did not originally include sidewalks. ISTEA Enhancement funds will pay for the design and construction of walking paths to link neighborhoods with recreation and the town center.
Enhanced Suburban Transit -- The Minnesota Valley Transit Administration recently constructed a suburban transit hub designed to meet the varied demands of suburban commuters. The transit hub offers convenient access to high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes on regional highways and features retail and office space, a day care facility, senior housing, expanded parking, and a movie theater.
The Enhancement Program Reduces Highway Runoff
Highway runoff mitigation is one of the ten categories of activities specifically eligible to receive Transportation Enhancement funds. Since 1992, nearly 100 runoff projects with a combined cost of more than $20 million have been funded by the Enhancements Program. In order to qualify as an enhancement, each of these projects must address issues which are beyond the scope of customary construction mitigation efforts; ie., required runoff control measures cannot be funded by the Enhancements Program.
Cucumber Creek, Oklahoma, Pollution Mitigation -- Mitigation efforts recently were completed in southeastern Oklahoma to correct the harmful effects of runoff from State Highway 259. Water quality in Cucumber Creek, which is located near the highway right-of-way, was degrading due to runoff from the roadway. This contamination threatened the viability of several rare species of plants and animals
In order to remedy the runoff problems and preserve the integrity of Cucumber Creek, the state of Oklahoma used approximately $65,000 in enhancement funds to regrade the land between the highway and stream and expand the Cucumber Creek Preserve by 400 acres. Because runoff is directed to less fragile areas, further pollution of habitat will be reduced. The regrading of the highway right-of-way also will prevent further erosion of the land on the sides of the roadway.
3. Parking Cashout
NEXTEA includes important policy initiatives to reduce the threat of climate change. One of these, the change in the tax treatment of commuter benefits, clearly demonstrates that there are opportunities to align the sometimes competing objectives of environmental protection and transportation mobility. Free parking at work is today offered to 90 percent of the American workforce. In part, this is because the Internal Revenue Code prevents employers from offering their employees a choice between tax-exempt parking, other tax-exempt commute benefits, or taxable cash. NEXTEA changes that. Employees who do not need or want their free parking spaces and would prefer to commute by some other means than driving, but accept them because they are often the only commute benefit offered, will be able to convert their parking spaces to taxable cash at no cost to .their employer. Employers will cease to pay for parking their employees no longer use. Fewer automobile commuters means better air quality, fewer greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere, and less traffic congestion. This is smart policy that is good for transportation mobility and for the environment.
4. Public Involvement
The Clean Air Act requires the evaluation of environmental concerns in transportation planning. NEXTEA continues to provide states with the tools to implement this requirement. In the past, citizens and local officials did not always have enough say in local transportation planning. ISTEA puts the citizens and local officials in the planning process. With the flexibility of ISTEA funding the "community vision" can become the community reality.
ISTEA has provided the funds and the flexibility to more easily make transportation networks efficient and environmentally sound. ISTEA, by requiring public- input on transportation planning, supports local citizens and officials make their own choices and have the funds to realize their community visions. Some.states have created decentralized processes in which the state share some aspects of its traditional control helping to empower MPOs and local governments. This empowerment comes in the form of programming control over the spending of federal funds in the MPO's planning area.
I'd like to mention a few examples of these decisions to show that increased public participation can result in good planning and better environmental-outcomes.
Albany's New Visions -- Through the "New Visions" initiative the Albany; NY MPO started calculating and using the costs of traffic jams, environmental factors, and larger economic impacts in transportation projects. This comprehensive account is almost unprecedented, and includes costs and benefits not traditionally included in the transportation planning process.
Florida -- Florida's state DOT has developed a close working relationship with MPOs, air quality agencies, and the public by involving these parties in making decisions about a variety of transportation investments. Florida's approach is partially attributable to the, state's decentralized DOT structure. District offices of the state DOT work closely with local governments and MPOs, providing a good mix of local, state, and public input in the project selection process
Bottom-up Planning -- California and Washington state have created well-defined "bottom-up" approaches to the selection of ISTEA's enhancement funds. Selection criteria are set by the state and MPOs, and corresponding agencies in non-urbanized areas evaluate proposed projects in their jurisdiction and send a prioritized list to the state. Although in both states, primary decision-making authority remains at the state level, the states have largely honored the recommendations by the MPOs.
Transportation funding before ISTEA was generally more rigid allowing less flexibility and creativity for finding alternatives to transportation problems. ISTEA and NEXTEA differ in major ways from transportation policy of the past. Flexibility allows for the implementation of local solutions to local problems as determined by local citizens and officials. Flexible funding encourages creative solutions that promote sustainable transportation, clean air, economic development, and meet the mobility needs of local citizens. Funds previously earmarked solely for highway projects now can be used by state and local officials to pursue multiple options for making their transportation systems more effective and sustainable.
The following are a few examples of how state and local governments have taken advantage of flexible funding to support economically and environmentally sensible projects.
Bridge Preservation -- In Vermont, most bridges were built after a 1927 flood, and they are now reaching the end of their useful life. Rather than replacing them all with a standard new bridge, the state has used ISTEA's new flexibility and finding provisions to rehabilitate or replace historic bridges on a case-by-case basis. Flexible funding permits investments that save money.
Train Station Revitalization -- In Greensburg, PA, ISTEA Enhancements fiends are being used to renovate a historic train station on Amtrak's' Chicago-to-New' York route. The redevelopment will help revitalize downtown Greensburg, and Amtrak predicts tripling ridership.
ISTEA Flexibility Encourages Innovation for Addressing Freight Emissions...
Flexibility in ISTEA also allows us to grapple with emerging problems, such as emissions from freight transportation in cheaper and smarter ways. Freight transportation moves the nation's commodities to U.S. markets, uses roughly a fifth of U.S. transportation energy, and produces roughly 30 percent of the mobile source sector's air emissions of NOx, according to EPA estimates. The corresponding percentages for particulate matter specifically from freight are not available, but are known to be even larger ISTEA began to emphasize the importance of freight transportation.
EPA recognizes and supports the steps already taken by the freight industry to promote and achieve industry productivity and environmental benefits:
Partnerships between truck and rail companies are on the rise, as many trucking companies are finding it more profitable to facilitate long hauls rather than make the entire trip themselves;
Truck-rail transfer stations have sprung up across the country, with truck companies serving the shipper and receiver and railroads providing long-distance movement to and from the transfer points; and,
Warehouse siting strategies and freight- distribution technology are decreasing fuel use and, therefore, costs.
Several successful examples of intermodal freight transfer projects merit particular attention. The city of Auburn, Maine, has used ISTEA CMAQ dollars to develop a state-of-the-art project that includes track improvements, new parking and container storage, and a weighing and freight control operations center. Auburn, an air quality nonattainment area, has the long- term goal of becoming a multi-modal transportation center. The new facility reduces long-haul truck traffic on area highways, decreasing vehicle emissions both in the Auburn area and along regional highway routes.
Auburn's project, which is referred to as the "Intermodal Freight Transfer Facility," has provided an economic boost to the area. With the conversion of freight from long-haul trucking to rail, a multitude of short-haul trucking companies have moved to Auburn to serve short trips from rail facilities to other destinations. The increase in economic activity has led to added competition for local warehouse space. Auburn has also attracted producers of goods that require incoming raw and bulk goods and the outgoing freight capacity of the facility. A number of transportation-related businesses and thus jobs have grown along Auburn's main freight corridor. On-going plans for the Facility are to provide multi-user access and grant access to the terminal to other railroads.
New York State, New York City, and the Port Authorities of New York and New Jersey are using an innovative water freight service across the Hudson River to relieve congestion on area bridges and roads, reduce air pollution, and provide a more economic mode of transportation With the Red Hook Barge, officials in the New York area have turned a potential congestion problem into a sustainable way to move goods.
EPA and DOT have made great strides in developing tools to aid local planners in integrating freight infrastructure and management practices with emissions control policy. Strategies for dealing with freight-related system enhancements and modal emissions rates include tradeoffs among such measures as changing terminal access or capacity, improved scheduling, and incentives for more rapid introduction of new technology or of alternative fueled vehicles, to name but a few. As these planning tools are disseminated through the funding of pilot projects and conducting of workshops in communities across the U.S., efficient and environmentally effective freight strategy options have been (and will be) implemented. The funding provided by CMAQ eases the transition to such implementation. Continued progress would be stymied without the CMAQ program.
ISTEA Flexibility Encourages Innovation for Addressing Border State Freight Transportation Issue
The issues that have arisen with freight border traffic between the United States and Mexico is of concern to EPA. NAFTA requires the harmonization of standards for truck, bus, and rail operations, and for the transportation of hazardous materials among Canada, the United States, and Mexico. Progress has been made, but EPA wishes to emphasize the environmental stake the United States has in resolving issues to ensure that there is no degradation of air or water quality and that land use, waste disposal, and other considerations are carefully taken into account.
Coordination of cargo transfers between Mexico and the United States to minimize cases where freight carriers making return trips empty of cargo, encouraging use of those border crossing points that are currently underutilized, and increasing hours of operation at border bridges are examples of measures that reduce congestion and lower peak emissions levels. Other measures that reduce congestion through construction of new infrastructure, such as expansion of facilities adjacent to border stations, connecting the Rio Grande Valley to the Interstate Highway System, and construction of limited access roads from Mexican factories to intermodal facilities in the United States should be viewed as opportunities to take transportation, energy, and environmental concerns into account.
ISTEA Flexibility Encourages Innovation for Addressing Brownfields
Brownfields are abandoned, idled, or under-used industrial and commercial properties where expansion or economic redevelopment is complicated by the threat of environmental contamination. While the full extent of the brownfields problem is-unknown, the United States General Accounting Office estimates that approximately 450,000 brownfields sites exist in this country, affecting virtually every community in the nation. The Administration's Brownfields Initiative is directed towards empowering states, local governments, communities and others to work together to assess, clean up, and sustainable redevelop these sites.
Transportation issues are critical to the sustainable redevelopment of brownfields. As DOT has testified in previous hearings before this committee, transportation empowers our neighborhoods by providing access to jobs, markets, education, and health care. Both highways and transit are vital to maintaining our metropolitan areas as viable commercial centers, especially for brownfields areas where we are trying to restore hope and vitality to blighted neighborhoods.
Environmental cleanup linked to transportation projects allows the reuse of urban land with existing infrastructure and provides the access to transportation that is vital to successful community revitalization. EPA and the U.S. Department of Transportation are working together to coordinate brownfields projects with transportation policy. The importance of these efforts are reinforced by the recommendations of the President's Council on Sustainable Development that stress the links between transportation, the environment, and sustainable development.
Brownfields redevelopment benefits the national transportation system. Brownfields projects take advantage of existing infrastructure and can reduce project costs. Further, redevelopment of brownfields may reduce pressure on suburban transportation infrastructure. Finally, locating development on brownfields may reduce the need for new transportation infrastructure needed to service greenfield developments.
There are added environmental benefits from Brownfields redevelopment and infill, especially when they are located in central cities. These areas are generally more accessible via transit and non-motorized modes of transportation. Those who choose to drive to work at these locations generally will have shorter trips than when the same jobs are located at the urban fringe. Infill development, as opposed to new development on greenfield sites, can reduce total growth in VMT, reduce congestion, improve air quality, and reduce carbon emissions
The benefits of linking brownfields redevelopment with transportation are demonstrated by transportation projects in cities such as Portland, Oregon, and Lawrence, Massachusetts. In Portland, Oregon, ISTEA funds were used to build a road through a brownfields area, connecting a port facility with an interstate highway. The transportation project was a primary factor in opening this blighted area to restoration and reuse. The Lawrence Gateway Project used ISTEA funds to revitalize the city by restoring its historic Canal Street bridge entrance and adding a new traffic interchange. Although the transportation costs were only $5 million, over $167 million has been leveraged in public and private fiends to give the former mill capital of the United States a brighter future. Examples like these demonstrate the flexibility that would be continued under NEXTEA.
The best way to stop pollution is to find alternatives to the activity creating it. In the case of mobile source air pollution, reducing fuel consumption and VMT is an important way to achieve results. EPA favors the continuation of the CMAQ and Enhancements programs, because they enable state and local governments to take diverse approaches to reducing air pollution, while also cleaning the water, preserving habitats, increasing system safety, improving the quality of life for their citizens, and encouraging local economic develop.
If judged solely on its ability to clean the air and enhance mobility, ISTEA is a success. When factoring in everything that ISTEA does for the environment, it is one of the most innovative and effective funding bills that has ever been passed. The CMAQ and Enhancements Programs permit multiple responsibilities to be met with one law. That is good policy. That is why they should be maintained.
ISTEA has planted the seeds of progress. NEXTEA has the potential to make those seeds bloom. EPA believes that the way to do this is to support programs that stress sustainability, environmental protection, economic development, and community involvement. The structure of ISTEA encourages planners and the "person on the street" to have vision, and provide them the tools to do something about it. The CMAQ and Enhancement programs are two of these tools.
Mr. Chairman and other members of the committee, thank you for your time this morning.