Statement by Senator Ron Wyden
for Environment and Public Works Committee Hearing
on Project Delivery and Environmental Stewardship
September 19, 2002
For this hearing, I think it will be useful to review the history of the environmental streamlining provisions of the Transportation Efficiency Act for the 21st century (TEA-21).
During Committee consideration of the TEA-21 bill, Senator Bob Graham, Senator John Chafee and I succeeded in including our legislation to align transportation and environmental decision-making as a way to get both faster and better decisions. To develop this legislation, we worked with transportation officials, environmentalists and developers.
What prompted this effort was that too often the transportation and environmental decisions proceed on completely separate tracks. The two tracks don’t come together until late in the process. That frequently leads to duplication of effort and delay. And sometimes the whole process blows up.
For transportation projects, “time is money.” Delays in approving transportation projects not only increase the cost of these projects; they also cause lost productivity to our economy and added stress for commuters stuck in traffic.
In the current budget climate, it=s going to be hard to find additional dollars to fund transportation projects. But we can make the dollars go farther by not making projects go through essentially the same reviews over and over again.
I think we have an opportunity to make environmental streamlining a win/win where projects get built faster in a way that=s better for the environment. Because now, what we often have now is a lose/lose situation.
I hope that this streamlining effort can be done administratively. This shouldn’t be bureaucratic water torture.
But if necessary, I am willing to come back again at this with legislation, and I think I speak for Senator Graham as well.
Unfortunately, I won=t be able to stay for today=s hearing, but I do want to recognize Charlie Hales who is one of the witnesses on the panel today. Until recently, he served as Transportation Commissioner for the City of Portland. As an elected city official, Commissioner Hales demonstrated on a number of important projects in Portland how you can get important projects built without cutting corners as far as environmental compliance. He did this by working collaboratively with both business and environmental organizations. I think he brings an important perspective on the issue for the Committee to consider.
I thank the Chairman for holding this hearing and for including Mr. Hales as one of today=s witnesses.