THURSDAY, OCTOBER 17, 2002                                                                                   

 

KEY COMMITTEE CHAIRS URGE HIGHER FUNDING FOR

TRANSPORTATION IN FY 2004 BUDGET

 

Washington, D.C. -- Today six Senators urged President Bush to include higher funding for the nation's surface transportation system as the Administration develops its fiscal year 2004 budget, announced U.S. Sen. Jim Jeffords, I - Vt, Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. 

 

The President's FY 2004 budget will include proposed six-year funding levels for the next surface transportation bill.  The letter includes chairmen of key Committees and Subcommittees that will be involved in the reauthorization of TEA-21, the nation's major transportation bill.

 

"It is clear to me following 14 transportation hearings that our transportation system needs a massive investment of new funds.  Next year's Administration budget will set the tone for reauthorization of TEA-21.  It is imperative that Congress be given the tools to address our transportation needs," said Jeffords.

 

Signing the letter were U.S. Sens. Jim Jeffords, I - Vt., Fritz Hollings, D - S.C., Paul Sarbanes, D - Md., Harry Reid, D - Nev., John Breaux, D - La., and Jack Reed, D - R.I.

 

The following is the text of the letter:

 

* * *

October 17, 2002

 

The Honorable George W. Bush

President of the United States

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, D.C.  20500

 

Dear Mr. President:

 

The 108th Congress will address reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), which expires on September 30, 2003.  As Chairmen of the Senate Committees and Subcommittees with jurisdiction over surface transportation programs for highways, transit and rail, we are in the process of working cooperatively to ensure that the nation's current and future surface transportation infrastructure needs are met through this important legislation.

 

Our hearings and outreach over the past few years have made one thing clear - reliable, safe, integrated, and efficient surface transportation infrastructure is essential to economic growth, global competitiveness, cleaner air, and a higher quality of life.  In order to accomplish these goals, increased federal investment in surface transportation infrastructure will be necessary. 

 

As the Department of Transportation's latest Conditions and Performance Report makes clear, existing funding levels are not adequate to maintain the current conditions and performance of our highways, rail and transit systems, much less to improve their conditions and performance. 

 

Our surface transportation infrastructure is valued at over $3 trillion and was in part made possible by forward-looking leaders like President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who led the way in creating the Interstate Highway System and the Highway Trust Fund, and President John F. Kennedy, who championed the first federal transit program.

 

It is our responsibility to not only maintain this infrastructure but to ensure that it is enhanced and ready to meet the challenges posed by the next generation of Americans.

 

This issue is extremely important to our national economy. Each $1 billion invested in surface transportation projects creates 47,500 full time jobs.  In addition, an integrated and efficient transportation system improves national productivity and is crucial to the ability of U.S. companies to gain access to both domestic and foreign markets.

 

American businesses depend on our transportation system which is why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sees this transportation bill as critical to our economy.

 

In light of these concerns, we urge that you present to the Congress a budget that will make maintaining and improving our nation's transportation infrastructure as high a priority as we intend to make it.   Your Administration's 2004 budget request must include a significant increase in funding over the levels your Administration requested in FY 2003 in order to maintain and improve our surface transportation systems.

 

We also ask that this priority be reflected in your Administration's proposal for the six-year TEA-21 reauthorization. 

 

Addressing our nation's future transportation needs will take cooperation, unity, flexibility, and creativity.  We intend to reach out to all Senators in this important effort, and to work closely with the House of Representatives. 

 

It will also take adequate resources, which we hope you will consider as an important investment in America's future.   We want to complete a bill with strong, bipartisan support in the Congress and with active assistance from your Administration.

 

Thank you for your consideration of this request.  We look forward to working with you and Secretary Mineta throughout the TEA-21 reauthorization process next year.

 

Sincerely,

 

Sen. Jim Jeffords                                                                                             Sen. Harry Reid

Sen. Paul Sarbanes                                                                                          Sen. Jack Reed

Sen. Fritz Hollings                                                                                          Sen. John Breaux