Senator Harry Reid
Environment and Public Works Committee
Tuesday, March 19, 2002
Thank you Senator Jeffords for holding this hearing today.
We have some real challenges ahead of us as we proceed with the reauthorization of TEA-21. Perhaps our greatest challenge is to address the ever widening gap between the demand for transportation and the capacity of our infrastructure.
This mismatch results in congestion, lost productivity, wasted fuel, increased pollution, and reduced quality of life.
And this gap will only grow wider over the next decade.
This committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee that I chair are charged with the difficult task of addressing this problem. We must come up with new and creative solutions:
We will look at providing increased funding for new roads and more lanes where possible.
We will try to reduce demand for our road infrastructure in metropolitan areas through better planning and new investments in mass transit and high-speed train service.
We will look at intermodal and technological solutions to freight issues.
And at our next subcommittee hearing, we will look for innovative ways to increase the capacity of existing road infrastructure through new technologies and an increased focus on operations.
Implementing solutions and making necessary investments in highways, transit, rail, new technology, operations, and any other good idea we come up with will cost us money. The transportation problems this nation faces are not easy ones to solve. But they are important. Worsening traffic congestion poses a significant threat to continued economic growth in my home state of Nevada. No doubt many other states and regions are experiencing the same problems. We cannot stick our heads in the sand while traffic congestion worsens, productivity declines, and people=s quality of life suffers. Transportation is an essential part of our economy and a part of our every day life. We have to be prepared to devote adequate resources to build a first-rate transportation infrastructure.
To this end, this Committee introduced S. 1917, the Highway Funding Restoration Act, which now has 68 bipartisan cosponsors. Senator Jeffords and I have worked very closely with Senator Conrad to ensure that the Senate Budget Resolution that his Committee is marking up this week will increase highway funding well above the level requested by the President.
However, money alone will not solve our problems. We need to be creative in developing new ideas and new approaches.
Last week, this Committee hosted a symposium on transportation research. Transportation research is underappreciated, but it is vital if we are to continue to advance our knowledge of the construction and operations of our infrastructure. While we must begin to address our nation=s transportation problems today, research will help us make further progress in the long-run.
The challenges facing us are daunting, but our task is critical for the economic future of this nation.
I come to this hearing hopeful that we will uncover some innovative solutions. I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.