U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
Hearing Statements
Date:   03/13/2003
 
Sen. George V. Voinovich, of Ohio
CMAQ and Conformity programs

The Hearing will come to order. Good Morning.

This hearing continues a long-running conversation that this Subcommittee – and indeed the whole EPW Committee – has had on the issues of congestion and air quality.

Specifically, we are here to discuss two programs – the Conformity program under the Clean Air Act and the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality – or CMAQ – program under TEA-21. Although these two programs are placed under separate enabling legislation, they both have a lot to do with two major problems – congestion and air quality.

The Department of Transportation has estimated that the cost of traffic congestion to travelers topped $72 billion in terms of hours of lost time and wasted fuel in 1999 alone. Between 1982 and 2000, the annual hours of delay per driver in 75 urban areas studied by the Texas Transportation Institute increased by 46 hours. Drivers in these areas spent 4 times longer sitting in traffic in 2000 than they did in 1982. Even more startling, small urban areas saw a 400 percent increase over the same period, according to U.S. DOT. These numbers are projected to grow even further in the near future.

One recent study estimated that Cincinnati drivers spent an average of 43 hours in traffic jams in 2000, compared to 4 hours in 1982; while Columbus drivers sat in traffic an average of 38 hours in 2000 compared to 4 hours in 1982; and in my hometown of Cleveland, drivers spent an average of 21 hours in congestion in 2000, compared to 1 hour in 1982. As a result, 104 million gallons of fuel was wasted in these three cities in 2000.

These costs – hours of delay, lost time and wasted fuel – are not the only costs associated with congestion. Congestion contributes to air quality degradation by increasing travel delays, engine idle time and unproductive fuel consumption.

As we move forward on reauthorizing the Highway Bill in this Committee, it is critically important that we look for ways to reform these two programs – Conformity and CMAQ – so they can be used by the States to reduce congestion and improve their air quality.

The transportation conformity process was designed to ensure that an area’s transportation projects and plans fit within a state’s implementation plan, which is set pursuant to the Clean Air Act. This sounds like a simple prospect, but making this process work in a high-growth area is anything but simple. Those areas tend to simultaneously have transportation and air quality problems.

As Governor of Ohio, I spent considerable effort to bring Ohio counties into attainment for the air quality standards. When I first entered office, 28 out of Ohio’s 88 counties failed to meet the 1-hour ozone standard. As a result of some very hard choices, all 88 of Ohio’s counties are now in attainment for ozone.

Unfortunately, under two new NAAQS standards, many of these counties will likely be re-designated as non-attainment counties. Over the next two years, EPA is set to implement its new 8-hour standards for ozone and the new 2.5 standards for particulate matter. Preliminary estimates indicate that when these new standards go into effect, 30 counties in Ohio will become non-attainment counties for ozone, and another 15 for particulate matter. Under the current rules, each of these counties stands to lose federal funding for important highway projects, which imperils countless efforts to reduce congestion and repair our increasingly dilapidated infrastructure.

According to the Ohio Department of Transportation, over $1.4 billion worth of projects identified for fiscal year 2004 through 2007 would be subject to conformity once the new 8-hour standards are effective.

Many of you may recall that our late Chairman, Senator John Chafee, held a hearing on this topic back in 1999. At that hearing, I stated that a lot of communities in this country would have a dickens of a time meeting the new NAAQS standards and predicted that the chickens would come home to roost when they went into effect. Well, here we are four years later, and it looks like the chickens indeed are coming home to roost. Under the new ozone standard, 232 counties in 32 states will be designated non-attainment next year and 176 counties in 26 states for the PM 2.5 standard in 2005. As I just mentioned, each of these counties stands to lose federal funding for all of their highway projects under the current rules.

As we move forward on reauthorizing the Highway Bill and on clean air legislation this year, I think we need to take a look at this process and see if there are ways we can change it to make it work better for states and counties in a manner that is consistent with our national clean air goals. I would be interested to hear from our witnesses what suggestions they would have on how to improve this process.

In 1991, Congress authorized $6 billion for the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) in order to help areas fight congestion in order to maintain conformity. Congress reauthorized the CMAQ program in TEA-21, and increased the funding to $8.1 billion over six years. The main goal of CMAQ is to fund transportation projects that reduce emissions in non-attainment and maintenance areas. A second goal of CMAQ is to fund projects that slow the growth of congestion, reduce emissions, and maintain economically viable and mobile communities.

CMAQ funding is apportioned to the states by means of a formula that takes into account the severity of air quality problems and the size of affected populations. The states are required to spend the money in non-attainment areas and maintenance areas. CMAQ funds are focused primarily on the transportation control measures contained in the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments. The primary purpose of these measures is to lessen the pollutants emitted by motor vehicles by decreasing travel demand and decreasing congestion. Over the first 8 years of the CMAQ program, funding has been concentrated in two areas – transit and traffic flow improvements.

Having been funded at a total of $14.5 billion over 8 years, the CMAQ program represents less than 1% of the total amount spent by all levels of government on highway and transit projects. However, the fact that CMAQ funding will not solve an area’s air quality or congestion problems single-handedly does not mean that the program is not valuable. In fact, one of its greatest benefits has been toward assisting areas in the demonstration of conformity – by funding emissions-reducing projects which will offset the emissions increases that are expected when highway projects are completed. Such projects have included park-and-ride facilities, high-occupancy vehicle lanes, traffic monitoring and incident management centers, special freeway service patrols, and emissions-testing programs.

One major concern that I do have with the CMAQ program is that – in terms of reducing emissions – you don’t get much bang for your buck. A recent study of the CMAQ program conducted by the National Academy of Sciences revealed that most CMAQ funds have been allocated to the least cost-effective strategies for reducing emissions. Department of Transportation statistics show that 89% of CMAQ-funded projects in 1997 reduced VOC emissions by fewer than 100 kilograms per day or less. In fact, 50% of these projects reduced VOC emissions by fewer than 5 kilograms per day or less. This is simply an unacceptable waste of taxpayer dollars when several CMAQ-funded projects, such as inspection and maintenance programs, have shown much higher emissions-reduction totals.

As this Committee considers whether to reauthorizing this program, we need to take a look at whether there any changes - such as reforming the criteria used to fund these projects – that will deliver more emissions-reductions bang for our bucks. I would be interested to hear from our witnesses what suggestions they would have on how best to accomplish this.

I look forward to examining these issues in today’s hearing. As I mentioned earlier, we need to find a way to reform these programs in a way that will allow our states to fight congestion in a manner consistent with our national clean air goals.

Our witnesses on the first panel today include Mr. Jeffrey Holmstead, the Assistant Administrator for Air Quality at the Environmental Protection Agency, and Mr. Emil Frankel, the Assistant Secretary for Policy at the Department of Transportation. In our second panel we will hear from various witnesses about the effects these programs have on states and local MPOs. I would like to thank these witnesses for coming here today to discuss these issues and I look forward to their testimony.