Statement of Senator Frank Lautenberg
ISTEA Reauthorization
April 7, 1997

We are delighted to be here this morning with colleagues not from the region so that they can get a look at what it is that's happening here. We're delighted to welcome you to New Jersey's favorite suburb.

I'd like for just a moment to focus on our State and our region. We are inextricably intertwined. What happens to one of our States happens eventually to both of our States in terms of infrastructure and transportation.

ISTEA, which was adopted six years ago, was good for New Jersey, good for the region, and, frankly, good for the entire Nation because it affects the way our commerce functions, the way our products are exported, the competition that exists between us and other parts of the globe, and it's an ever-shrinking domain.

New Jersey happens to be a corridor that links commerce and travel to the northeast and the rest of the country. The challenges that we face are challenges that the entire Nation has faced and will face again.

Too often there are jokes made about where do you live in New Jersey, what exit. We don't see the humor in that, as a matter of fact, but we do see the result, the congestion, the pollution, the delays, all of that.

If it weren't for the fact that we had ISTEA with its flexibility, Mr. Chairman, and my dear close friend from across the river, we wouldn't be able to function at all.

Again, the penalty would be national, not just local or regional.

Well, thanks to ISTEA New Jersey is at the forefront of improving the speed of national and international commerce. From the moment goods arrive at the ports of Elizabeth and Newark, they're loaded onto rail cars or on trucks, distributed to the rest of the country. In fact, goods traveling just 24 hours on a truck from New Jersey will reach a market of 40 percent of the populations of the United States and Canada, over 100 million people.

We know ISTEA has worked for the country because it has worked in New Jersey and it has worked in other places. I've gone out to Montana, to my good friend Senator Baucus' State.

New Jersey has its densely-populated inner cities, planned communities, sprawling suburban, rich farmland, and vast protected open space; miles and miles of roads, rails, runways, bike trails, and coastline. My good friend, Pat Moynihan, likes to say ISTEA stands for intermodal, which means connections through every mode of transportation.

New Jersey is also a commuter State. Millions of New Jerseyans face serious commutation problems every day. There are more cars per mile on New Jersey roads than any other State in the country. But, like so many other areas in the country, there is no place else to lay more concrete, so we cannot simply build ourselves out of congestion. I think the governor is certainly aware of that.

That's why States like ours are so heavily dependent on mass transit. For example, we recently opened a direct line called "Midtown Direct," simply enough -- an urban core project which was inaugurated just eight or nine months ago. That line now goes direct to Manhattan without intermediate stops. Within weeks the ridership doubled in its projections. Transit in New Jersey is well-used and, frankly, much beloved.

ISTEA's focus and its flexibility to move goods and people efficiently has given States and localities more free reign to decide what transportation systems worked best for them, and that, again, is a testimony to the wisdom and the clarity of the vision of Senator Pat Moynihan.

What transportation works best is what the States ought to be able to have a chance to choose.

New Jersey, for example, has enthusiastically opted to use over $163 million of ISTEA highway funds for transit over the life of ISTEA, and I don't know what it matters to those States who don't have the same transit need.

We say, "Use your money for highways. Use it as you see fit. But let us use it where it's most efficient."

Other States use their funds as they see fit, and that's the way it ought to be. So ISTEA couldn't have a better laboratory than New Jersey, than the region. ISTEA has worked for our cities, our counties, our environment, and for our economic well-being.

Let us build on the success of the past and not turn back the clock on transportation progress.

I thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to be here.