Statement of Senator Jon S. Corzine
At the Environment and Public Works Committee Hearing:
“Partners for America’s Transportation Future”
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this first in a series of hearings on reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century – TEA-21, and I’d like to join you in welcoming our witnesses.
As a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee as well as the Banking Committee, I look forward to being an active participant in drafting a bill that helps fund our highway and mass transit needs.
Mr. Chairman, drivers in New Jersey spend nearly 50 hours a year stuck in traffic, according to the New Jersey Institute for Technology. And, for many parts of our state, the total is significantly higher. For all this time stuck in traffic, that’s an average cost of $1255 per licensed driver in wasted gasoline and lost productivity – for a total cost of $7.3 billion a year. A different study by the Texas Transportation Institute estimates a much higher cost – as much as $10 billion a year.
All this gridlock is dramatically affecting New Jerseyans’ quality of life, both economically and emotionally. It means lost time at work, lost time with family and friends, and more stress. It also means more air pollution. And it’s one of the important reasons that much of New Jersey fails to meet Clean Air Act standards.
As a 25-year commuter to New York City from New Jersey, I can personally attest to the frustrations of the gridlock on our roadways. Figures from the 2000 Census back this up: our state has 8.4 million people, three percent of the nation’s population. Yet those people drive over 67 million “vehicle miles” in our state. This leads to intense gridlock.
Solving this gridlock problem, Mr. Chairman, will require a comprehensive approach to transportation. Clearly, there is a need for more roads in many areas and the construction of overpasses, underpasses and bridges also will help unlock existing traffic chokepoints. But we’ll never solve gridlock simply by pouring concrete. We also need to focus on other modes of transportation, including rail and transit. And we need to promote innovative approaches to traffic management that take advantage of emerging technologies, such as the EZ Pass system, and also promote tried-and-true approaches such as carpools and telecommuting.
As you might imagine, Mr. Chairman, I am especially focused on the needs of my State of New Jersey. And it is very disturbing to me that New Jersey receives so little in highway funding for all the gas tax and sales taxes on tires, trucks and buses that we send to Washington. Figures for the most recent year available show that our State now receives the minimum allowed for any State, 90.5 cents back for every dollar sent to Washington. This, Mr. Chairman, is an important reason that New Jersey ranks 49th out the 50 states in the amount of total tax dollars we receive back from Washington. In the case of highway funding that is especially not fair, considering our State’s aging infrastructure and severe transportation needs.
I look forward to working with you, Mr. Chairman, on these and other issues as our deliberations move forward, especially what level of environmental review must exist before a project is begun. I am in favor in general of the efforts in TEA-21 to streamline our environmental review process in order to begin road and rail projects more quickly. However I strongly believe that we can only do so in a way that protects our quality of life.
In addition, I also expect to be active in the Banking Committee, as well, in efforts to promote transit, which also is critical to my State, and that effort in particular will be focused on building a critically-needed tunnel under the Hudson River for rail transportation which will go a long way toward breaking down existing gridlock in our rail transit system.
In closing, Mr. Chairman, let me again thank you for your leadership in this area, and I look forward to working with you and hearing from our witnesses.