Senator James M Jeffords
Opening Statement, EPW Committee
APartners for America=s Transportation Future@
January 24, 2002
Good morning. And welcome to this, the first in our series of hearings on reauthorization of the nation=s surface transportation program.
Our nation's transportation system is one of the best in the world. Nearly every American relies on our roads, bridges, highways or mass transportation to get them where they need to go. But this reliance can also be the source of great frustration in the lives of our citizens. As we open the first of 11 hearings on this matter, we begin a process that will examine what works and what doesn't work, and our nation will be better for the exercise.
The Committee on Environment and Public Works has primary responsibility for the reauthorization process. EPW has a distinguished record of service in this regard, most recently and most importantly through its work under Chairman Moynihan in 1991 and Chairman Chafee in 1997. Their leadership unified the committee to produce the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act - ISTEA, and the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century - TEA-21. I intend to continue this effective bipartisan (now tripartisan!) tradition during 2002 and on toward reauthorization in 2003.
Our committee today includes many distinguished participants from those prior authorization efforts. Senators Warner, Smith, Inhofe, Bond, Baucus, Reid, Graham, Lieberman, Boxer, and Wyden have all been key contributors in the past and I will look to their wisdom and experience during the coming months. I too had the honor to serve on the committee during enactment of ISTEA.
In TEA-21, we have inherited a transportation policy and program structure that is basically sound. Our task this year will be to refine and evolve the program, based on the lessons learned over the last 10 years. We will also examine the current and projected state of our transportation system and the demands that it must meet.
Along with ranking member Smith and sub-committee leaders Reid and Inhofe, I have announced an ambitious hearing agenda for the coming year. Hearings will be held at both the full and sub-committee level.
This will be a year-long dialogue with the many stakeholders in the transportation community. We will seek the best ideas from the brightest minds. We will hear from government, industry and system users. My goal is an inclusive process, open to all points of view from all parts of the nation.
With Senator Reid at the helm, members of our Transportation and Infrastructure Sub-committee will examine the transportation program in detail. They will be our technical brain trust. We will also work closely with the other Senate committees of jurisdiction for reauthorization: Banking, Budget, Commerce and Finance.
EPW will be the workshop for crafting the next authorizing legislation. I invite proposals from my many colleagues on the wide range of issues that will make up the final committee package. I offer this committee as the forum for blending those proposals. As chairman, I extend my good offices to achieve that blend.
A few common threads run through our upcoming hearing topics. These include safety and security, economic growth, community enhancement and a balancing of interests. These are challenging matters, made more difficult by our nation=s current financial uncertainties and more particularly, by the cloud over transportation funding. In fact, concern over future resources unites all of the stakeholders in transportation. Success will require strength through unity. This committee will provide common ground.
The nation=s transportation program is a model of effective federalism. The program is decentralized, collaborative and flexible. It draws on resources from federal, state, local and private sources. In recognition of this, we are joined today by our partners from the cabinet, the states and local government.
Our hearing today will begin with the Honorable Norman Y. Mineta, Secretary of the US Department of Transportation and my old colleague in the House. Norm has taken a break from inspecting luggage at BWI to join us this morning!
Secretary Mineta will be followed by a panel of elected officials from around the country.
Bob Wise, Governor of West Virginia and nine-term House member, will represent the National Governors Association. Bob served on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, so he knows a thing or two about reauthorization.
Commissioner Chris Hart of Hillsborough County, Florida will represent the National Association of Counties. Chris chairs the NACo transportation committee.
Boise, Idaho Mayor H. Brent Coles will represent the US Conference of Mayors. He is the immediate past president of the Conference.
Finally, from the great state of Vermont, my friend Burlington Mayor Peter Clavelle will represent the National League of Cities. I am especially pleased to welcome a fellow Green Mountain Boy to these proceedings! In Vermont we put a high value on balancing our environmental concerns and our transportation needs. I pledge to move forward on a bill that will encompass this balance as we look to the years ahead.
I am pleased to be joined by such knowledgeable witnesses. We will need their wisdom. As we consider reauthorization, I want to know how our transportation policies have worked for Americans - for voters, customers, users, citizens and constituents. I want to know how the program has blended with other public objectives - social, environmental and economic. Finally, I want to explore ways to best meet future challenges. I look to our distinguished witnesses, and to the hearings that follow, to gain insights on these questions.