Statement of Senator Craig Thomas
Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure
Environment and Public Works Committee
November 4, 1997

Mr. Chairman, I must say that I am disappointed that this hearing needs to be held today. The members of this subcommittee worked very hard to craft a good six year bill to reauthorize the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), S. 1173 "ISTEA II." It is unfortunate that the product of these efforts was blocked from consideration by a minority of senators.

I am sensitive to the concerns of state transportation officials, the construction industry and others about the lack of a reauthorization of ISTEA. However, the answer to this problem is not extending the unfair formulas found in current law, as the House bill, H.R. 2516, does. Further, passing a six month extension will merely give some members of Congress more opportunities to delay consideration of a long-term reauthorization of the law. ISTEA legislation has already become a political football and formula fights on a six month bill merely exacerbate the problem.

However, this subcommittee can and should explore some legislative options that would keep the program running while also maintaining the pressure on Congress to enact the bill that passed this committee unanimously, 18-0. We can act quickly on important funding, safety, highway, transit and flexibility concerns while avoiding divisive and protracted debate that a six month extension would create.

I look forward to exploring these options with today's witnesses.