Testimony of Mary Tracy,
Executive Director, Society Created to Reduce Urban Blight
Environment and Public Works Committee
United States Senate
Hearing on TEA-21 Reauthorization
August 25, 2002
Mr. Chairman, I am Mary Tracy, executive director of SCRUB, Society Created to Reduce Urban Blight, a Philadelphia based non-profit organization dedicated to preserving Philadelphia’s scenic environment. On behalf of our Board and members we appreciate the opportunity to present written testimony on the re-authorization of TEA-21. We thank Congress for having the foresight to establish TEA-21, which has benefited travelers, residents of communities large and small, and local businesses and ask that you re-authorize TEA 21.
We urge Congress to preserve all categories of enhancement funding including funding of billboard removal and acquisition of scenic easements. SCRUB has worked with civic associations throughout the Philadelphia region and we know that municipalities are interested in improving important gateway areas in an effort to attract new business and residents to the region. Unfortunately, many of these areas lack a pleasing visual appearance sometimes as a result of the intrusion of billboards. This category of enhancement funding provides important resources for communities to visually enhance these gateway areas. We ask that you continue to provide funding for this need. We also ask that you resist any efforts by the billboard industry in TEA-21 re-authorization to further tamper with the Highway Beautification Act of 1965 or the Bonus Act. These laws badly need to be overhauled, but they require a level of attention not possible or desirable in such a complex bill as TEA-21. We recommend a thorough congressional inquiry in 2004.
ISTEA and TEA-21 have led to stronger communities; transportation systems that work with the land and a reawakening of a sense of place throughout both rural and urban America. As the chair of the Overbrook Train Station’s Restoration Committee, I saw first-hand the positive effect of ISTEA enhancement funding. Residents welcomed the opportunity provided by the 1991 ISTEA to restore an important neighborhood landmark, which, though well used by commuters, had become an eyesore and a dismal reminder of the once glorious days of the railroad. ISTEA funding provided the seed money to launch the station’s restoration and at the same time restored our community’s pride in place.
ISTEA and its successor, TEA-21 have enabled citizens to participate in local and regional transportation priorities on an important level and has improved the quality of life in communities throughout the country. We urge Congress to take steps to improve TEA-21 for the future and to continue to fully fund this vital, pro-citizen program.
Thank you for your consideration,