(Remarks as prepared for delivery)
Welcome everyone to the first hearing of the Environment and Public Works Committee for the 112th Congress.
Economic recovery and job creation are top priorities for this Committee and the Congress in 2011, which is why I decided to kick off the year with a hearing on the importance of transportation. Not only is investing in transportation important, it has bipartisan support.
I am working closely with Senator Inhofe on the next surface transportation authorization because we both agree it is a priority and we want to see a new bill enacted this year.
Just last night I sat with the Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee John Mica at the State of the Union, and he agrees enacting a bill should be a priority for this Congress.
Although we may not agree on everything, we both want to work together to get a bill done.
That’s why I was particularly pleased to hear President Obama highlight investments in transportation as part of his State of the Union address.
I welcome the President’s commitment and look forward to working with him, as well as my counterparts in the House and Senate, on drafting a bill that will create jobs, accelerate economic recovery, and build the foundation for long-term prosperity.
Today’s hearing, which is focused on transportation’s role in supporting our economy and job creation, is part of our early efforts to get a bill enacted in 2011.
We know transportation infrastructure investment is a proven jobs creator. According to the Department of Transportation (DOT) every $1 billion in Federal money for transportation that is matched by state and local funds creates and saves approximately 34,700 jobs.
These jobs are particularly needed today. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the December 2010 unemployment rate in the construction industry was 20.7%, more than twice the nationwide unemployment rate of 9.4%.
High unemployment in construction has a big impact on our overall economy. According to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), the transportation construction industry in the United States supports the equivalent of more than 3 million full time jobs and generates over $380 billion in total annual economic activity for the nation, nearly 3% of U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Not only does success in the transportation construction industry improve GDP, commerce in the U.S. benefits every day from transportation investments that shorten travel times, increase productivity, improve travel-time reliability, and improve safety.
Infrastructure investments enhance the productivity of businesses and individuals. Failing to invest creates the disruptions that waste money, time, and fuel and undermine our competitiveness.
According to the Texas Transportation Institute’s 2010 Urban Mobility Report, Americans waste 4.8 billion hours a year sitting in traffic due to congestion. This translates to almost 4 billion gallons of extra fuel consumed and a $115 billion cost to the nation when the cost of fuel and lost productivity are factored in.
Our witnesses today are testifying on behalf of the:
• American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO),
• Associated General Contractors of America (AGC),
• American Road and Transportation Builders (ARTBA),
• National Asphalt Pavement Association,
• National Stone Sand and Gravel Association,
• International Union of Operating Engineers,
• United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, and
• National Industrial Transportation League.
From states to business and labor, these are but a few of the broad coalition of stakeholders working to enact a transportation bill. These witnesses will tell us how Federal funding for transportation puts Americans to work, strengthens our economy, and rebuilds the infrastructure that keeps our country moving.
And, I want to take this opportunity to point out that I joined with the stakeholders in opposing the House Rules change which eliminated the point of order that helped guarantee highway funding and, as a result, will allow Congress to return to the old shell game of collecting fees from highway users but not spending them on transportation so that spending elsewhere can be increased.
Reducing spending on transportation is a mistake that would put jobs and our economic recovery at risk.
As Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, job creation will continue to be my top priority. I am grateful to my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for their interest in moving forward together on a transportation bill that invests in our transportation system to help ensure it will meet America’s needs in the coming years.