Statement of Senator James M. Jeffords
Subcommittee on Transportation, Infrastructure, and Nuclear Safety
September 30, 2002
††††††††††† First of all I want to thank Senator Reid B not just for holding this subcommittee hearing B but for all the work his has done to benefit this Committee regarding our most important responsibility next year B reauthorizing TEA 21. Congress is sometimes criticized, correctly, for waiting until a problem happens before action is taken.† And then the law is sometimes passed very quickly, without enough careful analysis.
††††††††††† Throughout the year Senator Reid has greatly helped to gather much needed transportation information, well ahead of time, that will be of great use as we write the transportation bill for the next generation of Americans.
††††††††††† In the past year we have had 14 hearings and round table discussions to learn about the successes of our current transportation law.
††††††††††† Todayís hearing is a milestone in that it completes an ambitious and rigorous TEA-21 reauthorization hearing agenda, which we unveiled one year ago.† With the help of Senator Smith, we carved out a hearing agenda that explored a range of topics from Rural Transportation, to Air Quality, Freight Delivery, Transportation Finance, and everything in between.† Throughout the year this committee has sought out innovative ways to garner as much information as possible.† We have held two joint committee hearings, two field hearings, and three round tables in addition to 10 full and subcommittee hearings.†
††††††††††† We have heard testimony from over one hundred witnesses over the course of this past year.† These witnesses have hailed from thirty different states and have represented nearly sixty different organizations, state and federal agencies, and associations. This has not been an easy undertaking, but it has been accomplished successfully through the hard work of dedicated members and staff and we have a record of over a thousand pages of testimony as result of our efforts.
††††††††††† Today we focus on a critical topic B the condition of our transportation system and how best to maintain and manage this extremely valuable asset.††† Asset management may not seem exciting B but it is critical to America=s future.††
††††††††††† At the micro-level, asset management means that a parent racing out for a quart of milk doesn=t hit a huge pothole and have to change a tire at 7:00 a.m.
††††††††††† At the macro-level, it protects American commerce while preventing much larger expenditures later. Every dollar spent keeping a road in good condition B saves up to 10 dollars versus rebuilding roads that have deteriorated.
††††††††††† Transportation assets are a key component of America=s economy B critical to family farmers, small businesses, and the nation=s largest corporations.† There are over 3.11 million miles of public road mileage. There are over five hundred and fifty thousand bridges owned and maintained by the public.† In addition, 9.4 billion rides were taken on America=s transit systems.† We need to ensure that these assets are able to keep pace with the ever-increasing demands that will be placed on the system in the coming years.†
††††††††††† Our system must be well maintained and in good working condition.† This will require a balanced investment strategy that promotes good management of our current assets while retaining the flexibility to add capacity in critical areas.
††††††††††† Today, Vermont has approximately 14,000 miles of roadway, 320 miles of Interstate, over 2,370 miles of toll-free state highways and 11,210 miles of municipal roads.
††††††††††† There are 16 public-use airports and ten state-owned airports. Burlington International Airport was the forth busiest airport in New England, with 8 carriers handling approximately 900,000 passengers last year.
††††††††††† Vermont has become more focused on asset management.† Vermont has examined the stateís infrastructure needs through its long range planning process.† In order to maintain and operate Vermontís transportation system at current levels, the state is going to need $8.2 billion in the next 20 years.
††††††††††† While I have a grasp of the needs of my home state, I need a better understanding of our needs nationally. †An understanding of the condition of our current transportation system is critical for us to move forward with our reauthorization efforts.
††††††††††† We have aging infrastructure --† roads and bridges that are approaching their useful design life Btransit vehicles that have exceeded their federally sanctioned life span.†
††††††††††† By understanding the costs associated with maintaining and replacing these key pieces of our transportation system, and meeting these costs, we will help ensure a strong economy and healthy communities throughout the nation.