Jeffords, Senator Smith, and members of the Senate Environment and Public Works
Committee…it is my great pleasure to be with you today to offer my testimony as
you begin to debate the reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act for
the 21st Century (TEA-21). I
am especially pleased to be one of the lead governors on transportation for the
National Governors Association (NGA). I
also appreciate the chance to follow United States Secretary of Transportation
Norm Mineta. As you are aware, I was a
member of the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee when Secretary Mineta was chair.
I can assure you that there is no better person to guide our nation’s
transportation policy. I also wish to
commend West Virginia’s United States Senators and your colleagues, Senators
Byrd and Rockefeller. Having two
senators of their caliber makes my job as governor much easier.
I was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, I was always a supporter
of TEA-21…because I firmly believed that investing in our nation’s transportation
infrastructure was a key ingredient to economic prosperity. After a year in office as the governor of
West Virginia, I am even more convinced that TEA-21 is essential to the future
of my state and this nation. West Virginia is a wonderful state, but we have
unique transportation challenges because of our beautiful, yet rugged
terrain. One of my most important jobs
is to continue to improve our road system so that we can take full advantage of
the opportunities presented by having a modern transportation system. West Virginia has committed itself to doing
that by maximizing our state gas tax to leverage as much local investment as
state-federal partnership fostered under TEA-21 has been one that has greatly
benefited the surface transportation system throughout the nation as a
whole. The governors are committed to
maintaining a safe and efficient transportation infrastructure, and we urge the
reauthorization of TEA-21. To meet that
goal, a number of important issues must be addressed and considered.
this body debates the reauthorization of TEA-21, care should be taken to
fortify and protect the Highway Trust Fund.
This fund is the major financial mechanism that redistributes dedicated
highway related revenue…such as fuel taxes and user fees to the states for
maintaining and improving the nation’s transportation infrastructure. It is critically important that Congress and
the Administration take measures to ensure that the annual revenues to the
Highway Trust Fund are used for their intended purpose. This has been achieved during TEA-21 through
the workings of the Revenue and Aligned Budget Authority (RABA) Program. While this concept is commendable, we now
see that it is not working as efficiently as it could. This program will provide a total of
$4.1 billion more for infrastructure investment than was anticipated when
TEA-21 was first enacted; however, that figure represents the net effect of the
very substantial increases the states enjoyed in fiscal years 2000, 2001, and
2002. Between 2002 and 2003, the states
may see their apportionments of obligation authority from the Trust Fund drop
by about 30 percent. This translates
into a $9.1 billion drop in federal highway funding from the fiscal year 2002
level. These figures are projected by
the U.S. Department of Transportation based upon new projections of the Revenue
Aligned Budget Authority (RABA). The
potential magnitude of a $9.1 billion funding decrease has the result of nearly
144,000 jobs being lost over the next two years.
longer term impact on the highway program could extend for a number of years
for two reasons. First, the sharp reduction will affect
the ability of states to use bond financing for construction. Secondly, the fiscal year 2003 funding numbers
would serve as a baseline for the calculations of the next reauthorization
legislation. These extreme peaks and
valleys make it impossible to conduct a consistent, well-planned investment
program. Going into 2003, commitments
to several road projects around the country will have to be revisited, and
contractors will be without work. Since
the redistribution of RABA funds have been based largely on revenue estimates
from year to year, I encourage the committee to pursue changes that ensure that
all Trust Fund revenues continue to be distributed to the states but in a
fashion that smoothes out the extreme peaks and valleys we will experience
during the TEA-21 period. States are in
the process of researching solutions to achieve a more stable and reliable
distribution mechanism in light of new negative RABA projections. We would like to work with you and your
committee to ensure a rapid and bipartisan action.
states are responsible for the vast majority of the maintenance of our nation’s
roads and finance more than one-half of all public investments in surface
transportation. My fellow governors are
committed to maintaining a first-class transportation system and continuing the
partnership with the federal government developed through TEA-21…but in order
to do that, it is important that each state be granted the flexibility and
authority to make the key decisions that affect transportation.
public transportation system is largely the responsibility of states and local
governments. It is important that the
next authorization should not weaken or preempt state authority. The governors oppose unfunded mandates and
urge Congress not to impose new standards without a federal financial
commitment to the states to offset any financial impact. Furthermore, the governors urge the use of
incentives rather than sanctions to encourage the achievement of national
nation’s governors strongly support sound environmental protection
efforts. It is important that TEA-21
has a strong environmental component; however, it is important that states have
the necessary flexibility to meet those environmental guidelines. Reasonable and sound environmental policy
can be achieved without sacrificing improved transportation and economic
development. One area of frustration
for West Virginia that resulted in numerous major delays in important projects
has been Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act of 1966. This section was originally intended to protect
certain highly valued recreational and natural resources from significant
impacts, which is certainly something I agree with. However, over time the Section 4(f) requirements have been
extended to cover historic properties which are also protected under Section
106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.
A complicated and rigid “avoid at all costs” mentality has developed
regardless of how insignificant the historical resource or impact. Eligibility has broadened to include many
properties that are in fact unremarkable.
This “broadening” at times includes very large districts surrounding the
property. As you debate reauthorization
of TEA-21, I think this is an area that also needs some consideration. This provision has led to many delays to
vitally important projects and has hindered the process of making
transportation more accessible and safe.
safety of our citizens on the nation’s roads is a major concern for the
governors. While modern transportation
systems have greatly helped reduce injuries and deaths on our nation’s highways,
safety programs should be strengthened.
States should be allowed to focus safety resources on their most
pressing individual safety needs.
Implementing any new national safety standards without state involvement
will only complicate the process.
can be further strengthened through streamlining and eliminating administrative
processes that are duplicative. The
recent Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) released by the Federal Highway
Administration (FHWA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) concerning
streamlining regulations will complicate TEA-21 rather than simplify it. I urge you to carefully consider any new
administrative guidelines that will only hinder the process. It is a waste of time and resources to delay
projects for unnecessary and burdensome administrative processes.
conclusion, I hope my statements today offer some insight into the policy
positions of the nation’s governors. It
is very important for all the states that TEA-21 is reauthorized and the advice
of the nation’s governors is heeded in the process.
behalf of the citizens of West Virginia, I urge you to take all that I have
said into consideration as this process continues. I believe for West Virginia to prosper, we must have a modern
transportation system. Many sound
policies were put into place in TEA-21.
One of them was the commitment of direct contract authority from the
Trust Fund toward the completion of the long-promised Appalachian Highway
System. The completion of this system
was promised 37 years ago to the people of Appalachia. While the interstate system is now 100
percent complete, only 82 percent of the Appalachian System is complete. These incomplete portions represent some of
the most dangerous segments of roads in the country. Only through a predictable stream of direct contract authority
from the Trust Fund can the Appalachian states be able to make meaningful
progress on transportation.
again, thank you for the opportunity to be with you today on behalf of the
National Governors Association and the people of West Virginia. I would be
happy to answer any questions.