(Remarks as prepared for delivery)
The current highway, transit and highway safety authorization legislation, SAFETEA-LU, will expire on September 30, 2009.
As we prepare for the next authorization, it is important for us to examine the role the Federal government has played in the development of our current transportation system, and to look forward to the role the Federal government should play in the future.
The upcoming transportation bill should address modern concerns in a post-Interstate era.
Highways and bridges built in the 1950’s and 60’s are reaching the end of their expected service life, and additional funding is needed for major repair or replacement.
This means we need to make significant investments in the short term just to maintain our infrastructure at safe functioning levels, followed by even larger investments over the next 20 to 30 years to completely replace aging infrastructure.
Not only is our infrastructure aging, but our population is growing and placing greater demands on existing transportation systems.
According to the Census Bureau, by the middle of the Century, the Nation will have grown to 420 million people from the 300 million mark hit in 2007. This equates to 11 new Los Angeles metropolitan areas and an increase of 50 percent in 50 years.
The Department of Transportation has estimated that the cost to our economy from traffic congestion alone is as high as $200 billion per year. With freight movement expected to nearly double over the next 30 years, congestion will become an even larger problem.
But, it’s not too late. Transportation programs and policies have evolved over time as needs and policy objectives have changed.
The authorization of the next bill gives us the opportunity to take a fresh look at the current program and make the changes necessary to ensure our nation’s transportation system will meet needs in the coming years.
Given tight financial constraints, determining what truly is in the Federal interest is even more important as we balance competing interests.
However, the Federal role is not just to provide funding. There is a Federal role in increasing the safety of our nation’s highways.
There is also a Federal role in ensuring the efficient movement of people and goods, which affect our economy and quality of life every day.
Protection of the environment is another area in which there is a Federal role.
In this next bill we need to more closely examine the linkage between transportation and the environment: including air quality, greenhouse gases, and land use.
This is the “Environment” and “Public Works” Committee; we need to successfully address the environment and public works issues together.
These are but a few of the issues that may be raised today. This hearing is intended to start the discussion on the key policy issues that will frame the future Federal role in surface transportation beyond SAFETEA-LU.
I appreciate all the witnesses being here today, and I look forward to your testimony.