Transportation and Air Quality Testimony
County Judge Ron Harris
Collin County, Texas
North Central Texas Council of Governments
Metropolitan Planning Organization for the
Dallas-Fort Worth Region
Presented Before the
U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
July 30, 2002
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I am Ron Harris, County Judge of Collin County.† Our county is located within the five-million-person Dallas-Fort Worth Metropolitan Area.† Today, my remarks represent the view of the policy officials from our region, specifically the Metropolitan Planning Organization of the North Central Texas Council of Governments.† I am a former Council of Governments President, City Council member, twelve years as County Judge, and serve as chair of the North Texas Clean Air Steering Committee, co-chair Texas Clear Air Working Group and member of the Local Government Advisory Committee to the director of E.P.A.† Our region has benefited from participation in partnerships with E.P.A. Regional Administrator Cook and Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission.† I am appearing today at your invitation and hope that we will be able to strengthen our partnerships through your leadership in fine tuning environmental and transportation laws to more effectively result in cleaning of the air.
I want to thank you and the members of the committee for holding this series of hearings to review the critical issues surrounding air quality and reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century.
Metropolitan areas account for 75 percent of the nationís population and 83 percent of its economic output.† They are centers of social and economic activity, and are the hubs of the national transportation system.† As these centers grow, congestion frequently follows, and unfortunately, all too often associated air pollution.† We think with the implementation of sustainable land use; rail transit; management and operations improvements; freeway improvements; toll road construction; and aggressive air quality policies, programs, and projects, urban regions can exhibit economic vitality, mobility, and air quality attainment.
As you know, our agency prepared a response to questions from the committee.† I applaud your format of requesting real world feedback from users around the country.† I ask that you refer to that response for specific details to your questions.† What I would like to do is address five of the more important policy questions.
1.†††††† Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ).† The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 and the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 permanently fused transportation and air quality planning and programming.† The CMAQ Program is one mechanism to aggressively fund control measures to reduce mobile source Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) and Nitrogen Oxide (NOX) emissions.† This funding and these measures are intended to lower exceedances of the one-hour and soon to be eight-hour ozone standard.† We anticipate that the CMAQ funding Program will also be eligible to reduce emissions in the soon-to-be implemented Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5 standard.† The National Academy of Sciences Committee on this topic, of which our Transportation Director was asked to serve, recommends continuation of the CMAQ Program.† In addition, the Committee proposed a more flexible and more effective program by permitting eligibility for high emitting vehicles and assistance in reducing further emissions from diesel emission sources.
2.†††††† Additional Technology, Vehicle Emission Controls, and Transportation Control Measures or TCMs.† TCMs are important components to reduce emissions and greatly assist with air quality conformity.† They often meet mobility and air quality objectives.†† Non-traditional TCMs are some of the most innovative and cost-effective programs in reducing vehicular emissions by way of altering emission rates or reducing vehicle miles of travel.
We ask the Congress to continue its past leadership in establishing federal technology programs that would otherwise be legally difficult to implement at a statewide or local level.† Congress is encouraged to explore ways to reduce the growing off-road mobile source emissions.† Another approach to reduce vehicular emissions is to advance already existing federal gasoline, diesel, and engine standards earlier than required.
3.†††††† Plan Submittal Frequencies.† Coordination between the State Implementation Plan (SIP), the Transportation Plan, Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), and associated air quality conformity analysis proves to be difficult due to varied schedule requirements.† Currently, the SIP submittal process is infrequent, but influenced by real-time, observed air quality data.† The Transportation Plan has a three-year update cycle, and the TIP has at least a two-year update cycle.† It would be much more efficient to have consistent submittal frequencies and to streamline the implementation of specific policies, programs, and projects with less emphasis on repeating the planning process for already approved plans.† In addition, it would lessen the confusion to our citizens, local governments, transportation authorities, regional partners, and resource agencies as they try to coordinate their planning activities with these federal requirements.
4.†††††† Conformity.† The air quality conformity process is a good mechanism to demonstrate that sound transportation planning is occurring.† There are three predominate concerns.† First, SIP and emission budgets have a relatively short-term horizon, while conformity of the Transportation Plan may be 25 years in the future with little unknown out-year emission technology benefits.† Second, The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can establish new emission rate software at irregular intervals.† This creates a conflict on how to include new information or the often suggested inconsistency of comparing transportation air quality impacts between two very different EPA software versions.† Third, conformity is often used as a litigation mechanism instead of the transportation assessment Congress established.
5.†††††† Planning Horizons.† Existing planning horizons for the SIP and the Transportation Plan is an issue that Congress should consider making more consistent.† The Transportation Plan is required to maintain a staged 20-year horizon and the SIP to contain a near-term attainment date.
Again, more detailed information is contained in our eight page response to your questions.† Thank you for your invitation to be here today.