OPENING STATEMENT OF SENATOR BOB GRAHAM
Thank you for bringing us together today on the subject of the reauthorization of TEA-21. The policies that are decided during this debate will deeply affect each of our states. You are to be commended as well for calling us together on January 24 C our first week back in session this year.
This learning process and discussion is too important to rush through right before legislative drafting begins. You=re wise to begin now, and explore this thoroughly.
I have looked at your proposal for eleven hearings this year, and agree with the topics chosen, and the pace of discussion.
This is the first of those proposed hearings, and as such, a great opportunity to look back on lessons learned, and lay out, in general, some priorities and challenges for the next authorization cycle.
You=ve assembled a great group of witnesses (and I am very pleased to see a Floridian, Commissioner Chris Hart from Hillsborough County, on the panel). Each of them brings perspective from different universe of government: federal, state, county, and city.
This hearing emphasizes the level of coordination and cooperation that has developed in transportation policy since we emphasized this time of structure and planning in ISTEA.
I=ll be interested to learn of our successes, and where we must improve in this cooperative planning process.
I would like a quick moment to reflect on my Alessons learned@ from the last reauthorization process, and outline a few priorities.
C Follow the legislative process through to the final regulations. Members of this committee, and witnesses in this room, celebrated the environmental streamlining language that was incorporated into TEA-21. We are now frustrated by the slow progress in the development of regulations that reflect our intent. This next time, I want to work more closely with those who will interpret what we draft in this committee. Better lines of communication can only mean clearer, better public policy.
C Other committees can affect what we draft here. I have been frustrated by the fact that some of the programs that we developed in TEA-21 where grants should be awarded on a competitive basis, are not working that way in reality. As an example, the ITS money provided by TEA-21 is all earmarked and not awarded in the way we intended.
I=d like to work as a Committee with our colleagues and find a solution that brings us closer to the intent of what we drafted and passed in TEA-21.
There are more lessons learned, but time is short.
I also hope the Committee will seek Alessons learned@ from those who have actually been on the front lines of our nation=s transportation policy, much like the witnesses who have joined us here today.
Looking ahead, the world has changed in several ways since we finished enacted TEA-21.
There is a focus on homeland security.
We are heading into some tight budget years.
Traffic congestion is affecting quality of life.
We learned quickly after September 11 how difficult life can be if one mode of transportation, such as air travel, suddenly becomes difficult or impossible.
I look forward to working with our Chairman, my colleagues here, and all interested parties in taking the next few months to expand our knowledge of transportation issues and challenges, and together drafting the next authorization bill to meet those challenges.