When I speak with the Director of the Idaho DOT and my state legislators about ISTEA the first thing they want to know is if there will be more funds available to support the new National Highway System.
They want to know if Congress is going to return more of the gas tax dollars collected at the pump to states to build and maintain Federal highways.
The want to know if Congress will continue to recognize and support the concept of a "National" highway program that benefits all Americans regardless if you live in a large urban area or a sparsely populated rural western state.
They want to know if Congress will financial support research for the development of new and more efficient modes of travel, alternative fuels and vehicles.
These priorities are my priorities. That is why the testimony of these witnesses today is so relevant and timely.
We must return more dollars of the gas tax "user fee" back to the states for use on long deferred maintenance instead of building up a balance in the trust fund that serves no transportation purpose.
We must structure ISTEA II so that it fulfills the objectives and goals of ISTEA One while we streamline and improve the original program based on its track record of performance. We must never lose sight however, of the intent and purpose of the original Federal Interstate Highway System which was established more than 40 years ago... we are one country with one national system of roadways that people must be able to depend upon. We cannot allow the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act or the National Highway System to become programs of have and have-nots, and winners and losers.
We must be innovative and creative not only in developing transportation technology for the future but, also in developing creative ways to finance them.
We are at a critical crossroads of our nation's transportation future. We must seize it as an opportunity for success and not let it slip away.
Mr. Chairman, in closing I would like to submit for the record a report entitled "Our National Laboratories and Transportation Research." This is an excellent document which was prepared to address the question "What is the role of our National Laboratories in transportation research?" We are very proud to have one of these laboratories, The Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, located in Idaho. I am hopeful that members of the committee will review this important report.