STATEMENT OF SENATOR HARRY REID
MAY 20, 2003
Good afternoon. I want to extend a special welcome to my friend Secretary Mineta and thank him for joining us this afternoon.
As we meet today, we are preparing for a summer full of challenges and opportunities as we reauthorization the nation=s surface transportation program. The administration=s reauthorization proposal is an important part of this process.
I agree with the Secretary=s testimony that transportation has an enormous impact on the economy and our quality of life. I have always been a proponent of infrastructure investment and the economic stimulus and jobs it creates. For every billion dollars we spend on transportation infrastructure, we create over 47,000 well-paid, skilled jobs.
TEA-21 reauthorization represents a tremendous opportunity for us to impact our economy in a meaningful, lasting way. Unfortunately, the administration=s reauthorization proposal does not take full advantage of this opportunity.
While the bill continues the spirit of its predecessors, ISTEA and TEA-21, the bill is woefully underfunded. The administration bill takes the important first step of identifying problem areas such as safety and congestion, but then fails to provide the necessary resources to make a real and substantial impact in these areas.
Despite a reduction in the fatality rate over the last decade, far too many people die in traffic accidents each year, a disproportionate share of these fatalities on rural roads.
Congestion continues to plague our major metropolitan areas causing millions of Americans to lose billions of dollars in lost time and productivity while they sit in traffic.
Adequately addressing these problems will require substantially more Federal investment than this Administration appears willing to make in its reauthorization proposal.
This bill=s proposed funding stream does not even come close to meeting the administration=s own cost estimates for system maintenance, let alone system improvements.
The administration=s bill also would modify certain environmental provisions and project permitting requirements. TEA-21 and its predecessor, ISTEA, proved we can advance our national transportation goals while preserving our environment.
I will not support any provision that undermines essential environmental protections. We can increase investment in and improve our nation=s surface transportation system in a timely, thoughtful, and effective way without jeopardizing the environment.
In conclusion, I repeat that a strong 21st Century economy requires a well-maintained, well-operated national surface transportation system. The still-lagging American economy needs the stimulus and jobs created by sustained, robust investment in this system.
This investment will benefit businesses, both large and small, and improve the quality of life for every American.
I look forward to the coming reauthorization debate and to working with my colleagues and Secretary Mineta on this most important legislation.