STATEMENT OF SENATOR JAMES M. INHOFE, APRIL 7, 2003

I would like to welcome everybody to this, the first field hearing of the Committee on Environment and Public Works of 2003.I am honored to hold this hearing for my good friend Peter Fitzgerald to learn more about the transportation needs of the great states of Illinois.

 

As Iím sure everybody here is aware, the law currently governing surface transportation, TEA-21, must be reauthorized this year.I plan to mark up the new legislation in May, have it considered by the Senate in June, and have it on the Presidentís desk in September, before TEA-21 expires.

 

My goals for reauthorization are very congruent with the needs of Illinois and, I believe, the goals of Senator Fitzgerald.

 

I plan to put a great deal of focus on improving safety, congestion, and freight movement.A good highway program can save lives, improve the economy, and improve peoplesí quality of life.

 

I also would like to see healthy and sustainable growth in funding levels under the new bill.The nationís highway and bridge needs are staggering.This Administration recently estimated that to simply maintain the existing highway and bridge system would require annual investment to increase by about 20 percent above current funding levels.

 

But simply increasing funding is not enough.States like Oklahoma and Illinois currently pay significantly more into the Highway Trust Fund than they receive in highway funding.We are donor states.I want to significantly increase the rate of return of donor states.This is an important equity issue.

 

I would like to thank the witnesses for coming.I look forward to hearing your testimony.