STATE SENATOR RICHARD MAZZA
US SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS
August 16, 2002
Thank you, Senator Jeffords, for inviting me to testify here today.
And, welcome to Vermont, Senator Smith and Secretary Jackson. You have given us a wonderful opportunity to describe the challenge of providing transportation services in a rural state.
My name is Dick Mazza. I own and operate Mazza’s General Store, a market that has been in business in Colchester, Vermont for 48 years.
Since 1984, I have also represented Chittenden and Grand Isle County in the Vermont State Senate. I have been a member of the Senate Transportation Committee throughout that time, serving as Chairman for the last 12 years.
As you know, Senator Jeffords, the State of Vermont has entered a difficult financial period. We are facing a budget deficit of some $39 Million. This is a significant amount for a state of our size. And I know that other states, and the nation as a whole, are experiencing similar problems.
I raise this because it places our transportation issues in an important context. Vermont’s revenues are directly tied to the strength of its economy. And our economy – our businesses, my business – is directly reliant on our transportation system.
But when times are tough, and when human needs are greatest, it is tempting to cut back on transportation spending.
This year in the legislature, we reduced our paving program by half from last year’s. Just this week, a joint legislative fiscal committee considered additional transportation cuts. Interstate rest areas, public transit routes and town highway grants are all on the chopping block.
We all know that a transportation investments create jobs. We can see the paving crews on our highways and the driver on the bus. But beyond these direct benefits, improved transportation moves the people and goods that power our economy.
The state’s leading private employer is IBM. Access to their facility in Chittenden County today leaves much to be desired. We have both highway and rail improvements programmed to improve the situation, but at great cost. Yet, this investment in our economic future is vital to our state.
Our economy relies heavily on interstate trade and travel. Interstate 89 and 91 are the lifeline for much of the state. We face enormous reconstruction and repair costs on the Interstate.
Vermont’s northern border with Canada has felt the effects of NAFTA and its attendant growth in freight movement. International freight also moves through Vermont from neighboring New York. Replacement of the Mississquoi Bay Bridge, at a staggering cost by Vermont standards, is essential to support our international trade.
Perhaps the most difficult investment challenge in these tight times is our renewal of Vermont’s railroads.
I like to think of the nation’s great achievement – the Interstate Highway System – as our model for rail redevelopment. We built the Interstate in segments, but with a fully developed system as our ultimate goal. In Vermont, we have taken a similar approach with rail.
But we need a Federal partner in this major undertaking. We need to see continued support for a national passenger rail network. Vermont will do its part. And we need the freedom to use our federal transportation dollars to revitalize rail.
Let me close by again thanking you, Senator Smith for taking time out of your campaign to join us here today. Vermont and New Hampshire really do have much in common.
To Secretary Jackson, and through you to Secretary Norman Mineta, I appreciate your efforts to manage our nation’s transportation program in the face of the financial and security problems that confront us all.
And finally, Senator Jeffords, let me thank you again for your years of service to our State. It gives me great confidence to know that you are at the helm in Washington.