SENATOR BOB SMITH
COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS
MARCH 19, 2002
Good afternoon, and welcome to our distinguished panel of witnesses. Mr. Chairman and members, today we have an opportunity to hear from some of America=s leading academicians and theorists in an area that every one of us is vitally affected by: the strangling congestion of our roads and highways. In addition to the latest research on traffic flow, they are going to present us with some creative ideas on how to alleviate this crises, some of which are very radical, and definitely Aoutside the box@. I welcome the creativity and ingenuity they represent, and commend our witnesses for presenting us with such original thinking. I urge all my colleagues to carefully consider the ideas presented to us today.
Everyone knows that traffic congestion is a nightmare that plagues us all at some point in time, for some it is a way of life. New Hampshire is certainly no stranger to this problem - just ask anyone who commutes on I-93 every day. In the nation=s 76 largest urban areas, the congestion Apenalty@ - the added delay caused by more and more cars jamming our roadways - has skyrocketed 185% since 1982. Additionally, there is a financial cost to traffic congestion and bad roads - in terms of both time and added expense. According to 1998 research conducted by the Texas Transportation Institute, traffic congestion costs Americans $53 billion annually in fuel and time.
Yet we cannot overlook the mobility needs of growing towns that are not among the most congested major metropolitan areas. It is just as important that smaller regions like southern New Hampshire implement transportation improvements that will prevent emerging traffic problems.
Traffic congestion is not only an inconvenience, it can also be deadly. The American Highway Users Alliance has recently estimated that fixing the nation=s 167 worst bottlenecks over the next 20 years could prevent more than 287,000 crashes and save nearly 1,200 lives. To me, there is no better reason to improve our roads and eliminate these bottlenecks.
As the senior Republican on this Committee, I will be working very hard to do everything possible to craft a bi-partisan approach to addressing these congestion issues in reauthorization. Peak-hour congestion can be eased if we are willing to look outside of the box toward innovative solutions. I look forward to exploring the new ideas we will be presented with today. Thank you again to all of our witnesses for being here.