Statement by Senator Harry Reid
EPW Subcommittee on Transportation, Infrastructure, and Nuclear Safety
Hearing on Intelligent Transportation Systems
September 10, 2001
Welcome to today=s hearing on the Intelligent Transportation Systems program. We are nearly two-thirds of the way through the six-year authorization of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, or TEA-21, and it=s time to start thinking about the next transportation bill.
The ever-increasing gap between the demand for transportation and the capacity of our infrastructure is one of our biggest challenges as we look to the future. Virtually every American depends upon our nation=s transportation infrastructure to get to work, run errands, go to school, or to deliver the products which keep our economy going . Transportation, for better or worse, is a vital part of everyone=s life and the backbone of our economy.
This is why our next transportation bill is so vitally important. People are fed up with spending too much of their valuable time stuck in traffic. Quality of life suffers, productivity declines, and air pollution worsens when the system does not function efficiently. With limited resources and limited space available for new roads, we increasingly need to look to innovative solutions, and that is why I am pleased we are here today to discuss the Intelligent Transportation Systems program.
The ITS program can make important contributions to safety through the intelligent vehicle initiative, and through advanced communications and traveler information systems in rural areas. ITS initiatives are also improving the efficiency and safety of commercial vehicle operations through new high-tech communications and information systems.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of ITS involves deploying infrastructure-based technologies to improve the operations of congested metropolitan roadways. Often, building new capacity in metropolitan areas is not an option due to the high-cost of right-of-way acquisition, the lack of available space, environmental concerns or clean-air conformity issues. The only way to alleviate congestion in such instances is to encourage the use of alternative transportation modes and to make existing roadways operate more efficiently.
I am pleased that Marty Manning, the Public Works Director for Clark County, Nevada, is able to join us today to discuss some of the intelligent transportation initiatives the Las Vegas region has employed to address traffic congestion. In a fast growing state like Nevada, particularly in the Las Vegas region where our current road infrastructure is overwhelmed, we need to use every resource available to address this problem. We need to improve and expand our existing road infrastructure, we need to provide more and better mass transit options for commuters and visitors, and we need to take advantage of new technologies to ensure that we make the most efficient use of our existing infrastructure.
More and more we will have to shift our focus from the construction of new roads to improving the operations of existing roads. We will have a hearing next year focused on the management and operations of our regional transportation systems, but the Intelligent Transportation Systems program is a vital piece of the operations puzzle and I look forward to hearing from our witnesses on the status and future of this program.
Before we begin, I would like to raise a concern about the Mid-Session Review released by the Administration in August. The Mid-Session Review estimated that Highway Trust Fund revenues are falling so quickly that highway spending could be reduced by some $6 billion dollars in fiscal year 2003.
Given the needs of our transportation system and the slowing economy, this could have a substantial negative impact in terms of foregone infrastructure improvements and lost construction jobs. The last thing a slowing economy needs is for the federal government to cut back on infrastructure investments and good construction jobs. I look forward to receiving a full briefing from the Administration on these new projections and will keep a close eye on this issue.
With that, I welcome our first panel of witnesses:
Christine Johnson from the U.S. Department of Transportation;
Elwyn Tinklenberg, the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Transportation, who is here representing the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials; and
Larry Yermack, the Chairman of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America.
Our second panel will give us an update on how the Intelligent Transportation Systems program is working in specific metropolitan and rural regions.
Marty Manning is here representing Clark County, Nevada and the American Public Works Association;
Jim Beall (ABell@) is representing the San Francisco Bay Area=s Metropolitan Transportation Commission; and
Steve Albert is here from the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University.
Thank you all for coming and we look forward to your testimony.