Statement of Senator Jim Jeffords
August 20, 2002
Welcome to our first Vermont field hearing of the Committee on Environment and Public Works. I especially want to thank Deputy Secretary Jackson, of the United States Department of Transportation, for being here.
“Together, the united forces of our communication and transportation systems are dynamic elements in the very name we bear – the United States. Without them, we would be a mere alliance of many separate parts.”
With those words, President Eisenhower announced his massive effort in the 1950s to modernize America’s highways “as necessary to our defense, as it is to our national economy and personal safety.” The committee I chair will craft a national transportation bill next year, for the next generation of Americans.
In 1819, the Congress created the Select Committee on Public Buildings which became this Committee on Environment and Public Works – with authority over major issues including the environment, roads, rivers, harbors, the Coast Guard, water and air pollution, and the transportation bill.
Past members of the Committee include two Presidents – Harry S. Truman and Andrew Johnson – and five Vice-Presidents of the United States.
Two of my best friends have served on this committee as chairmen: Vermont’s Senator Bob Stafford and Rhode Island Senator John H. Chafee, whose son now serves on the EPW Committee.
I am thrilled to be back in the Vermont State House. I have very fond memories of working in these rooms.
I am here, today, to learn from Vermont. While the next transportation bill will be national in scope, it will be driven by local input.
This transportation bill will not just be about paving new roads. Under my chairmanship, it will be about making America stronger, helping rural communities, protecting the environment, creating thousands of good jobs, making commerce flow, keeping families safer, and enhancing rural economic growth.
In the process, I will not forget the special needs of our senior citizens, nor will I forget our youngest citizens. Parents should not have to worry whether the school bus will make it to school, and children should not have to worry whether their parents will make it home from work.
Three million highway injuries a year, including over 40,000 deaths, is unacceptable. The total economic cost of motor vehicle crashes in the year 2000 was $230 billion – 5 times the cost of the Eisenhower proposal. There are no complete guarantees in life, but I assure you that I will work toward passing the most safety conscious – and the most environmentally sensitive – transportation bill ever.
Much needs to be done in Vermont. We have 15,000 miles of public roads and over 2,000 bridges that must be properly maintained.
We need to support commerce. Nationwide, the percentage of freight carried by trucks is projected to increase at least 45 percent by 2010. An improved rail system in Vermont would help us prevent that truck congestion.
I will work to protect our New England heritage and communities. I want to do what is right for the Nation, but through local-decision making.
I am interested in harnessing new technologies and creative ideas to get Americans safely on the move.
The events of 9/11 have raised the ante as we work to better safeguard Americans in transit B whether it is families driving across a bridge or fully loaded passenger trains.
Worldwide, roughly one-third of terrorist attacks target transportation systems. Another challenge will be our aging population – the population aged 85, and older, will increase 20 percent in the next 6 years.
On a separate front, emissions from vehicles include lead, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, other harmful pollutants, and air particles that expose us to health problems – including cancer.
This is hardly what parents want their children to inhale while playing in the backyard. Scott Johnstone, the head of Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources, testified in front of me down in Washington, DC, just a few weeks ago. He said that surface transportation remains the largest in-state source of air pollution in Vermont.
Traffic pollution is also a major cause of greenhouse gas emissions and we must act now to protect our planet.
One of my top priorities will be to spend wisely. A recent report showed that every $1 spent on road maintenance – while the roads were still in good condition – saved up to $10 in costs to repair the road, once the road fell into poor condition.
While the transportation bill presents many challenges – some of which I have just mentioned – it also offers great opportunities.
For example, each one billion dollars spent in a transportation bill can create 44,000 full-time jobs.
My goals for this bill include a cleaner environment, a strong Vermont economy, safer families and healthier communities, more Vermont jobs, and a transportation system for Vermont based on Vermont’s needs.
I am very pleased that we will be hearing from a number of witnesses today, including Secretary Jackson. I look forward to working with him on this major effort. Also, we will hear from:
· Debra Ricker, Associated General Contractors of Vermont;
I also want to invite anyone in the audience to submit written testimony to me by sending it to the: EPW Committee, Room 410 Dirksen, Washington, D.C. 20510.
Please send your ideas to me by September 5.