(Remarks as prepared for delivery)
The tragic collapse of a Minnesota bridge in August of last year reminded us that we need to invest more in the maintenance and preservation of our current transportation system.
However, increased resources to better maintain the nation’s highways and bridges are not our only need. We also face major challenges due to increased congestion and goods movement.
The interstate system was designed in the 1950s when the number of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) was much less than it is today. Miles traveled have increased from 600 billion in 1955 to three trillion in 2006, and it has been estimated that we could reach 7 trillion VMT per year by 2055.
Freight handled by trucks is projected to double by 2035 and the percentage of freight traffic handled by trucks will also increase. Traffic through West Coast ports alone could nearly triple over the same period.
This increased truck traffic will cause huge traffic problems in already congested urban areas across this country.
In 2005, the Texas Transportation Institute found that congestion resulted in 2.9 billion gallons of wasted fuel, 4.2 billion hours of extra time, and $78 billion in delay and fuel costs. The value of delay and fuel costs per traveler was $710 in 2005, up from $260 (in inflation adjusted numbers) from 1982.
Similarly, the Department of Transportation has estimated that the cost to our economy from traffic congestion is as high as $200 billion per year.
As our economy continues to grow, congestion will continue to worsen unless we make major changes to improve goods movement.
Nowhere is the need to improve goods movement more important than in California, particularly Southern California.
45% of all containerized cargo destined for the continental U.S. passes through California’s ports. While this trade is vital to the economy, it clogs our roads, fouls our air, pollutes our water, and creates safety issues.
The movement of goods has a real impact on air quality and global warming. Freight transpor¬tation is still largely driven by fos¬sil fuel combustion, and with that combustion comes emission of greenhouse gases.
As a percentage of all mobile source emissions, heavy-duty truck, rail, and water transport together account for more than 25% of CO2 emissions, approximately 50% of NOx emissions, and nearly 40% of PM emissions in the United States.
According to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), approximately 75 percent of diesel particulate emissions in California are related to goods movement.
In addition, CARB has attributed 2,400 premature deaths to diesel emissions and estimates that the health costs of diesel emissions could be as high as $200 billion in 2020.
By reducing congestion we can improve air quality and public health.
The current highway, transit and highway safety authorization legislation, SAFETEA-LU, will expire on September 30, 2009.
Goods movement and its impact on congestion and air quality will at the top of my list of issues that need to be addressed through the authorization process.
Today’s hearing is the first step.
I appreciate the witnesses for being here. I look forward to your testimony and to working with you to ensure the next bill makes real improvements to goods movements that will reduce congestion, improve air quality and help grow our economy.