(Remarks as prepared for delivery)
Today is a great day. Yesterday, the Senate passed the HIRE (Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment) Act on a bipartisan vote of 68 to 29 which includes an extension of transportation programs and full funding for the Highway Trust Fund through the end of the year.
The President will be signing this bill into law at 11:15, so I will be heading out a little early to attend the ceremony.
A million American workers, including 100,000 in my state of California, will have confidence in knowing that their jobs are secure because we have renewed the transportation bill through the end of the year. Signing the HIRE Act – the first part of the jobs agenda – into law sends a strong signal to our states, transportation agencies and to the private sector.
This also allows us to focus on moving forward with a transformational transportation authorization bill that will create jobs and invest in our nation’s infrastructure. Today’s hearing on mobility and congestion in urban and rural areas is an opportunity for us to examine these issues, as we continue to work on the next surface transportation bill.
According to the Texas Transportation Institute’s (TTI) most recent Urban Mobility Report, Americans in urban areas lost 4.2 billion hours traveling and burned extra 2.8 billion gallons of fuel due to traffic congestion in 2007. According to TTI’s calculations, that’s a total cost to American families and businesses of $87.2 billion dollars – up more than 50 percent over the previous decade.
Right now in the current federal highway program there are several programs that provide funding for metropolitan areas to address their transportation needs. The National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission has recommended that the next authorization bill include the creation of a new program for improved metropolitan mobility.
Rural areas also have their share of issues when it comes to mobility, including safety concerns. The fatality rate is 2.5 times higher in rural areas than in urban areas, according to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). While there are programs that provide funding to help address transportation needs in rural areas, there are currently no targeted initiatives focused on the needs of rural America in the Federal Highway Program.
Today’s witnesses will discuss the mobility issues that both rural and urban areas face, as well as provide some examples of how we can ensure that both of their needs are being met when it comes to congestion and safety.
I look forward to hearing their testimony as we develop the next transportation authorization bill, MAP-21.
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