STATEMENT OF JOY WILSON
PRESIDENT AND CEO
NATIONAL STONE, SAND & GRAVEL ASSOCIATION
SENATE ENVIRONMENT & PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE
MAY 15, 2002
Good morning. I am Joy Wilson, president and chief executive officer of the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association—NSSGA—located in Arlington, Virginia.
NSSGA represents the nation’s aggregate industries—producers of crushed stone, sand and gravel, as well as suppliers of equipment and services to aggregate producers. Our 850 member companies turn out 90 percent of the crushed stone and 70 percent of the sand and gravel consumed annually in the United States. Nearly three billion tons of aggregate valued at approximately $14.5 billion were produced in this country in 2001, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The aggregate industry workforce is made up of about 120,000 men and women across America.
Just to provide some perspective, there are 10,000 construction aggregate operations nationwide. Virtually every congressional district is home to a crushed stone, sand or gravel operation. Proximity to market is critical due to high transportation costs, so 70 percent of our nation’s counties include an aggregate operation.
Construction aggregates are used primarily in asphalt and concrete. Ninety-four percent of asphalt pavement is aggregate; 80 percent of concrete is aggregate, whether used in pavement, buildings, dams, sewage treatment plants and the like. About 10 tons of aggregate per person are used annually in America. Every lane-mile of interstate consumes 38,000 tons of aggregate; about 400 tons of aggregate are used in construction of the average home.
While I appear this morning representing the aggregates industry, I also appear as a representative of the Partnership for Quality Growth that includes 13 labor and industry organizations that share a common interest and concern for the future of our country’s transportation systems and infrastructure and how they relate to our national quality of life.
I know this is something we share with the members of the Environment and Public Works Committee, so we particularly appreciate Chairman Jefford’s and Senator Smith’s initiative in holding this hearing to examine the issues surrounding “Transportation Planning and Smart Growth.”
Our industry-labor coalition has a significant interest in “smart growth.”
Among other things, this diverse group adheres to the basic concept that Americans should continue to be allowed the freedom to live and travel where and when they please.
We also recognize that, as our population continues to grow, all planning—federal or local—must accommodate that continued growth, plus the collateral increase in the transport of freight that will be needed to support that population.
We hope to insure that federal policies respect as much planning power as possible in local communities to meet growth needs—especially with regard to transportation and other infrastructure improvements. Use of Federal transportation law to drive local planning decisions should be approached with extreme caution, lest local and state land use decisions become usurped by federal determinations.
It is essential that local planners have the ability and flexibility to formulate their plans with a sound basis of knowledge about where and what the aggregate resources around them are. While those resources are plentiful across the United States, they vary in quantity and quality from location to location. It’s important for planners to know if their local resources are suitable for multiple uses, including construction, erosion control, water quality protection and the like. And they must know how long their supply of the resource will be available.
Geological mapping is a key tool for planners in pinpointing resources. The placement of a school, a shopping mall or a hospital, for example, atop a rich aggregate deposit would indefinitely eliminate that deposit’s beneficial use by the community.
That is another reason why our industry is attuned to discussions about land use planning and concerned about the potential impacts of the “smart growth” movement on Americans’ mobility, our industry, on transportation planning and construction and on the reauthorization of TEA 21.
I will begin by discussing these points and then I will offer some observations on how we have an opportunity in the reauthorization process to promote “quality growth.”
Let me define some terms.
“Quality growth,” as defined by the Quality Growth Coalition, is planned growth that respects the fundamental freedom of Americans to choose where they live, their choice of housing and how they travel.
It promotes quality urban development and growth management by improving the entire transportation network—including additional road capacity, better management of traffic flow and more efficient public transit.
Defining “smart growth” is more challenging.
Generically, “smart growth” principles are motherhood and apple pie: preserving green spaces, easing traffic congestion, restoring sense of community, promoting regional growth strategies and nurturing a high quality of life.
Leaders in the major political parties and at all levels of government have embraced these basic principles.
However, others interpret “smart growth” to mean no expansion of suburban development; the imposition of urban growth boundaries; increased housing density; getting people away from individual car use; reduced emphasis on road improvement—especially road capacity—and disproportionate investment in rail and mass transit.
Others see a strong federal land-use planning role to combat what some call unorganized spreading out, or “sprawl,” prodding Americans to infill within urban areas.
We do not believe that the vast majority of Americans want restrictions on their freedom of mobility. And air pollution from mobile sources has declined so much that today, while still a concern, it’s not even the primary source of air pollution in most areas of the United States.
Over the past 30 years we’ve seen more than more than a 30 percent increase in population, the number of licensed drivers increase by 64 percent, a 125 percent increase in vehicle miles traveled and 87 percent increase in licensed vehicles, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Air pollution reductions from mobile sources have been dramatic. According to a January 2002 U.S. Department of Transportation report,
· Carbon monoxide is down 43 percent over this same 30-year period; volatile organic compounds are down 59 percent;
· Particulate matter is down 42 percent;
· NOx is holding nearly steady and
· Lead has been virtually eliminated from our air.
There are many interpretations of “smart growth,” but we and our industry colleagues believe the focus should be on “quality growth.”
After all, as one of the greatest friends of the environment this country has ever known—President Theodore Roosevelt—once said: “Conservation means development as much as it does protection.”
We have facts and studies, and we must put the debate more fully in the sunshine—with decision makers at all levels of government.
We found that with two statewide ballot initiatives in Arizona and Colorado in 2000 that the citizens—once apprised of the true impacts of the “smart growth” initiatives—did not agree at all with such extreme measures that took away personal freedoms, property rights and ability to plan for future growth.
Both these ballot initiatives were defeated by majorities of more than 70 percent with the support of coalitions of business, labor and government.
Let’s look in our own backyard. Many of you are familiar with the 1960s National Capitol Transportation Plan for the Washington area that called for 14 new roads, mass transit and high-occupancy vehicle lanes.
Well, we got Metro and the HOV lanes—but only one of the 14 roads. And look at our congestion now—second worst in the entire nation. Road capacity did not increase in parallel to population increases and the desire of people to make multiple stops on the way to and from work and throughout the day.
So, one impact of “smart growth” on transportation planning is the misunderstanding, or even misinterpretation of how much congestion relief mass transit can assume.
In fact, a growing body of evidence suggests that Americans will choose to drive and that government policies will not change their behavior.
In his book, Commuting in America, noted transportation expert Alan Pisarski observes that, over the past three decades and despite billions of dollars invested in alternatives to driving, every means of commuting, except lone drivers who can’t use HOV lanes, has lost market share from 1980 levels.
Year 2000 census data released this past August showed the trend continuing and confirmed Pisarski’s findings.
We are concerned about claims in the name of “smart growth,” that putting what’s tantamount to a moat around a city—an urban boundary—will maximize the use of our resources and prevent open spaces from being developed.
Matthew Kahn of Tufts University and others at the University of Illinois and the University of Southern California who’ve studied the phenomenon find growth in suburbs to be a pattern resulting essentially from increased prosperity.
Rocky Moretti of The Road Information Program recently unearthed a fascinating nugget of research that tells us much about human behavior.
What he found is that the human race has been “sprawling” for some time.
He located a city in Central America with an urban corridor connected to suburbs by series of roads. Research showed that, as the core of the city expanded and filled with commercial and other activity, inner city residents moved to the suburbs. The town is called Caracol and the movement to the suburbs predated the automobile by 1200 years. This suggests a strong human propensity to seek space when possible.
We agree with Alan Pisarski’s recommendation that transportation policies should facilitate Americans’ lifestyle choices, not thwart them.
Another factor where “smart growth” interacts with transportation planning is in the myth that proponents of better roads want to pave America over—and that if you build, widen or improve a road, more cars will be attracted to it as if it were a magnet. The data and surveys contradict this hyperbole.
We do not have a shortage of land, a shortage of farmland or a shortage of forests. What we have is a desire by most people to live in certain core areas, and those areas, not surprisingly, are densely populated—generally characterized by urban centers and suburban growth.
As the National Center for Policy Analysis in Dallas reports:
· Less than five percent of the nation’s land is developed and three-quarters of the population lives on 3.5 percent of the land.
· Only about one-quarter of the farmland lost since 1945 is attributable to urbanization.
· Predictions of future farmland loss based on past trends are misleading because farmland loss has been moderating since the 1960s, falling from a 6.2 percent decline in farmland per decade in the 1960s to a 2.7 percent decline in the 1990s. Other factors, such as crop yield and market conditions, have had a greater impact.
And freedom of choice is the fundamental issue here. The freedom to choose where to live and how to travel to work, to recreation and to two working parents’ unending errands.
Americans continue to choose to buy and drive cars, SUV’s and trucks.
They choose lifestyles—including ordering goods by e-commerce—that put ever more trucks on the road to deliver consumer products to their stores and homes.
Their lifestyle choices have relegated commuting to a scant 20 percent—one-fifth—of all trips. America’s highway travel is growing and will continue to grow in the future.
So, Americans are choosing to drive, but they’re also choosing the suburbs over the cities.
Some indict government-sponsored infrastructure investments—like sewer and water lines and highways—for suburban migration. The logic goes, “stop the infrastructure investments, stop the sprawl.”
But is that true? Studies have shown that Americans move from cities to suburbs because of prosperity. As we become more successful and prosperous, we want a better quality of life—and many find it by moving out of cities.
Public opinion polls further buttress these conclusions. When asked, Americans list quality public schools, affordable housing, good jobs and low traffic congestion as their top priorities in choosing where to live.
Secondary priorities are open space and low‑density.
And the principal factors used in deciding where to live aren’t compatible with high‑density living and limited highway capacity.
In a nationwide survey by National Association of Homebuilders in the late ‘90s, 83 percent of respondents said they would prefer a detached, single family home in the suburbs over an equally priced urban townhouse near transit, even though the suburban home would entail longer distances to work and shopping.
Today, more than half of Americans live in suburbs. Forty percent of our jobs are located there, and more jobs are being created in suburban communities than anywhere else.
When the public’s clear choice to drive and to live in the suburbs is suppressed, or if policy decisions try to change behavior by reducing or stopping highway investments, decision-makers will allow traffic congestion to worsen.
With nearly all Americans choosing to drive, public policies that ignore that vast majority will fail.
In contrast, relieving traffic congestion will reap very real benefits to our communities and our quality of life.
Two years ago, NSSGA supported American Highway Users Alliance’s definitive study on the benefits of congestion mitigation.
The study found that improving America’s 167 worst traffic bottlenecks would produce dramatic safety, environmental, fuel economy and time‑saving improvements over the next 20 years:
· 290,000 fewer crashes, 141,000 fewer injuries, 1,100 fewer fatalities;
Second, environmental improvement:
· 45 percent reduction in carbon monoxide,
· 44 percent reduction in smog‑causing volatile organic compounds,
· 71 percent less CO2, and
Finally, economic productivity:
· A reduction of 19 minutes for each vehicle driving through the bottlenecks.
Road investments enhance our freedom of mobility and democratized mobility for all Americans. With more than 90 percent of American households having access to automobiles, mobility reaches through all classes and incomes.
Road investments have made it possible for lower income workers to live in areas they can afford yet commute to higher paying jobs in areas where they cannot afford to live.
Road investments have increased the opportunity for more Americans to buy their dream homes and boosted leisure time.
Road investments create jobs. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that 42,100 total full‑time jobs are created with every $1 billion that is invested in federal‑aid highways: 27,600 in highway construction and related industries and 14,500 that are induced in other industries as the 27,600 spend the wages they’ve earned. Highway dollars create construction jobs, which create supplier jobs, which create jobs for businesses that provide the goods and services they want.
Last but not least, road improvements reduce commute times. In its 2001 Urban Mobility Report, the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) concluded that traffic congestion in 68 major cities wastes 4.5 billion commuter hours annually—costing $78 billion in lost time and productivity.
The last time a rush hour was really an hour was in the late l960’s. The rush hour grew into the “rush period” of three hours daily by 1982. And in 1999, the rush period was almost six hours (about three hours each way).
The TTI study also showed about 6.8 billion gallons of excess fuel is consumed annually in what they call a “congestion tax.”
And pollution is reduced when you can reduce emissions from idling traffic to smooth-flowing traffic.
This leads me to my final point: how the reauthorization of TEA 21 can promote quality growth.
We are faced with challenge after challenge in our nation’s courts to highway projects authorized by TEA 21 and approved through the local, state and federal environmental permitting processes and are needed by commuters.
The challenges have come in the guise of protecting air quality under the Clean Air Act. But, occasionally, you find an admission by opponents that they just don’t want these projects built in Atlanta, Sacramento, Baltimore, Salt Lake City or in other key urban areas because they fear the projects will enable growth.
The reauthorized highway bill must anticipate harassment litigation on projects prioritized by the states and approved by the federal government. These are projects that have passed through all the environmental hoops and local planning processes.
They’re projects that communities want for capacity, for gridlock reduction, for relieving traffic congestion and for improving air quality and the quality of their lives. They’re projects that can reduce the loss of life, time, money and fuel.
The Partnership for Quality Growth firmly believes that such anti-road litigation is one facet of “smart growth” that isn’t and doesn’t contribute to “quality.”
We want to be positive about the contribution of sound planning to our quality of life. Some opponents would paint us as “anti-planning.” But that’s not true; let’s look at planning recommendations our industries propose for local consideration at the community level:
· Well-designed suburban communities
· Flexible planning and zoning regulations
· Protection of key open space
· Comprehensive transportation systems with adequate road capacity
· Improved road design, and
· Preservation and redevelopment of previously occupied sites.
Over the past 30 years, our roads have increased capacity only by six percent when our population has grown by more than 30 percent.
And, our population is expected to grow by 100 million people by the year 2050.
TEA 21—the largest infrastructure bill ever passed by any Congress—is going to make a dent in that, but the need is so immense that the challenge for the next transportation bill is even more formidable.
Quality growth principles can help frame the debate during reauthorization. These principles are:
· Acknowledging our freedom to choose how to live and travel,
· Acknowledging that growth is good if managed properly,
· Sharing the benefits of improved mobility as broadly as possible—mobility is a major factor in the quality of our democracy,
· Advocating that decisions should be made locally and involve local citizens, and
· Believing that our policies should facilitate American culture and choices, not thwart them.
Investment and use of mass transit and public transportation – whether buses or rail – are necessary and important tools in our battle to solve congestion. But these tools need to be in some proportion to Americans’ interest in using them, and should not be used as weapons against roads and vehicle use. HOV lanes, Heavy Vehicle or Dedicated Truck Lanes, and other gridlock-busting alternatives also must be examined to lift our nation out of congestion.
TEA 21 is being impacted by “no growth” litigation over highway projects, projects already approved through the local, state and federal transportation, community and environmental processes.
The successor legislation must make and embody a critical philosophical choice—are we as a nation trying to dictate cultural change in America, or are we trying to serve and facilitate the freedom of movement that has characterized this nation from its beginning?
In embracing the beneficial planning goals of quality growth, the new legislation should support the local, state and federal decision making processes that, once completed, should not be subject to delay by interminable court battles due to legal loopholes.
Our industries are committed to ensuring that America continues to grow and that it will be quality growth.
Mr. Chairman, I respectfully wish to submit for the hearing record a copy of the Quality Growth Coalition’s publication, Building Better Communities: A Toolkit for Quality Growth, which expands on some of the points I touched on today.
Thank you for your consideration.