Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the opportunity to examine our nation’s infrastructure investment and its contributions to our future competitive trade advantage with other nations. There is no denying that the level of commitment to our nation’s infrastructure is directly linked to the United States ’ continued place as a world economic leader. Thus, I am pleased, Mr. Chairman, that you have convened this hearing to get us thinking about how decisions we make with regard to transportation will eventually affect our place in the world market place.
Nations like China and India now pose a serious threat to the United States as emerging world economic powers. To put this in perspective, China will be investing $200 billion in its railways over the next 3 years which will lay the groundwork for a sophisticated freight system that far exceeds our own freight movement capabilities. Additionally, China is planning almost 100 new airports and 190,000 miles of new roads, which doesn’t include the 33,000 miles in highways built since 1990. I believe that these growing countries are experiencing an economic renaissance not unlike what our nation went through when President Eisenhower first conceived the National Interstate System over 50 years ago. Our vision of a federal network of highways, once coveted by the world for its innovative planning and connectivity, is now struggling to accommodate the exponential growth in people and goods movement.
As I have said many times before, current funding of our highway program is barely enough to maintain the system, let alone provide for much needed new comprehensive investment in future infrastructure needs. We cannot afford to ignore the consequences of merely “maintaining” our transportation networks while the rest of the world continues to spend heavily on bigger and better ways of competing with our once superior highway system.
As the rest of the world continues to finance new ports, highways, and sophisticated rail networks to attract new commerce, I am concerned about the impact this will have on our own industries. If we fail to provide a free-flowing transportation system to accommodate our “just in time” economy, our manufacturing industries will be forced to export much their operations abroad. Canada and Mexico are committing billions to the construction of new high capacity ports and rail systems of their own in an effort to divert foreign cargo trade away from our heavily congested ports in the Northeast and Southern California . The United States economy cannot afford to be outpaced in infrastructure spending by other rapidly growing countries, eager to attract new commerce to their economies.
As we gear up for re-authorization of the Highway Bill, it is critical that we consider the above mentioned facts. Mr. Chairman, you are in a unique position in that you are not only the Chair of the authorizing subcommittee but also Chairman of the Finance Committee that will find the money to pay for what I hope will be an increased investment in transportation infrastructure. I look forward to working with you to write the authorization language and want to offer my support as you struggle with how we pay for transportation moving forward. As I understand it, the Commission established by SAFETEA designed to solely look at the financing of transportation has yet to issue their recommendations. My hope is they will be able to provide us with some useful and workable ideas.