Senator Harry Reid
Opening Statement, EPW Committee
APartners for America=s Transportation Future@ Hearing
Welcome to the first in a series of hearings on the reauthorization of our nation=s surface transportation program. I am pleased to have the opportunity to chair the Subcommittee on Transportation, Infrastructure and Nuclear Safety and look forward to working closely with Senator Jeffords and other members of the Committee to write the legislation reauthorizing the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, known as TEA-21.
This legislation is critically important to each of our states and to the nation as a whole. I represent Nevada, the fastest growing state in the country, and I have seen how such rapid growth has placed tremendous demands on our road system and our entire transportation infrastructure. I understand the problems and needs of Nevada, and that=s why I will continue to provide leadership on this issue. I want to make sure that in my state and across America we have a transportation system that promotes economic growth, improves safety, enhances quality of life, and protects the environment.
Ten years ago, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act B ISTEA -- revolutionized transportation policy. TEA-21, enacted in 1998, maintained the principles of ISTEA while bringing significant new resources to our highway and transit infrastructure. TEA-21 shifted 4.3 cents of the gas tax from the General Fund to the Highway Trust Fund and created the budgetary firewalls which ensure that all revenues into the trust fund are dedicated to transportation investments.
Now it is our job to build upon the successes of ISTEA and TEA-21 -- to protect the gains, identify the weaknesses, and improve our transportation system.
Throughout this hearing process we will look at ways to meet the transportation challenges of a new century.
-- We will seek to use new technologies to improve operations, alleviate congestion and enhance security in metropolitan areas;
-- We will investigate how multi-modal approaches can help us address transportation problems and improve mobility;
-- We will examine the physical condition of our highway and bridge infrastructure;
-- And we will study the transportation sector=s impact on the economy and the environment;
As we look for innovative approaches to transportation problems, we must recognize that ensuring adequate funding will be perhaps our biggest challenge.
Last fall, I was the leading proponent of including infrastructure investment funds in the economic stimulus package. My view was, and still is, that investing in our infrastructure creates jobs and economic activity in the short-run and results in permanent improvements that also benefit our economy in the long run.
Unfortunately, in Fiscal Year 2003 we face a $9 billion dollar decrease in highway funding. This is just the opposite of an economic stimulus B it is more of an economic depressant. This loss of funding is of great concern, especially during a recession, and in the long run will diminish the productivity of our transportation sector. I hope that the President=s budget will somehow consider this important economic issue. It will continue to be a top priority for me.
The Transportation, Infrastructure, and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee that I chair will hold a hearing devoted to the FY 2003 Federal Highway Administration budget proposal and TEA-21 reauthorization in February. I look forward to addressing funding issues in much greater detail at that hearing.
For now, I am very pleased with the excellent slate of witnesses we have on hand for this opening hearing to provide the committee with perspectives on reauthorization from the federal, state, and local level. Mr. Secretary, I welcome you here today. We could ask for no better partner in this process and I am delighted at the opportunity to work with you again. I look forward to your testimony.