Good morning Madame Chairman, Ranking Member Inhofe, members of the committee and our panel of witnesses. It’s great to be starting another session of Congress and immediately launching into matters concerning authorizing the next surface transportation bill. This must be a top priority for EPW, Senate Banking and Commerce Committees, and for Congress on the whole.
The focus of today’s hearing on the correlation between transportation and job creation and economic growth is precisely why authorizing a new transportation bill must be done soon. Fast and efficient intermodal transportation systems, both figuratively and literally, drive our nation’s economy. Better development of a seamless intermodal transportation network is critical to sustained economic growth and keeping America competitive in an increasingly globalized economy.
Most of our witnesses here today can testify to the job creation potential that lies within the transportation infrastructure construction itself. Without a doubt, road projects create important domestic jobs that need to be restored to our economy.
However, I want to highlight the bigger role transportation plays in fueling domestic productivity and economic growth, with a focus on maximizing the efficiency of transportation system to best serve residential and commercial communities.
Travel delays on congested roads and highway have tremendously negative impacts on lost work hours, worker productivity, and commercial logistics. This is especially true in urban and suburban communities where freight, commercial personal transport all mix together to create enormous traffic jams affecting everyone involved.
Improving the overall functionality of our complete transportation system is what it means to improve the “livability” of our communities, because being stuck in traffic for two to three hours a day, is no way to live. This is an unfortunate reality for all too many communities, the Greater Washington Metropolitan Area being one of the worst, stemming beyond mere inconvenience, into being a genuine drain on our economy.
Freight transport in Maryland is a perfect case-study for why developing livable communities, emphasizing multi-modal transportation options, is important to our Nation’s economy. It also demonstrates the interconnectivity of all transportation sectors.
The Port of Baltimore is an enormous economic engine for Maryland and the entire eastern half of the country. Annually, the Port handles 47.5 million tons of domestic and imported cargo, valued at $45.3 billion. The efficiency in which the cargo moves in and out of the port is largely based on how congested the highways and railways are around Baltimore, which is directly affected by the number of cars on the road.
Maryland’s consolidated transportation plan takes a comprehensive approach to developing the state’s transportation system and not developing the modes separate from each other. This interconnected approach helps improve efficiencies across the board.
For example, Maryland’s plans to develop new transit lines in Baltimore, in between Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties inside the Beltway, in Northern Montgomery County are designed to provide increased transportation options for the large and growing commercial residential communities.
Improving transit in these communities will provide a faster and more reliable transportation option for people to use to get to and from work. Getting more people to use transit systems will alleviate congestion on area roads and highways which will improve the shipment and delivery of goods to regional markets.
The creation of new jobs in the transportation sector will result from working to meet national transportation goals designed to improve transportation efficiency.
Improving local and regional transportation systems at the micro level will have tremendous economic benefits at the macro level. Making these improvements starts with this Committee and our colleagues on the other Senate Committees we must work with to put together the next transportation bill.
While investments in transportation infrastructure are required for the U.S. to remain competitive in our global economy, the federal government’s role extends beyond these investments to federal transportation and energy policy.
In prior hearings, we’ve heard that we need to get people out of their cars and into fast, convenient, and reliable mass transportation systems. That will take a major investment. Such an investment improves the quality of our travel and supports the increasing demands that commerce places on the roads and railways of our country.
This required investment is not for convenience but is a necessity to help our Nation’s economy to continue to grow in the longer term.
It is my belief that federal investment in public transportation should be a national priority. Our nation receives extraordinary public benefit from mass transportation systems. These systems take thousands of cars off our congested highways. Transit takes tons of pollutants out of the air we breathe and moves people efficiently into and out of our most important commercial centers.
Congress must encourage smart growth through funding transit-oriented development with upgrades to transit facilities, bicycle transportation facilities, and pedestrian walkways.
Congress should create federal tax incentives for employers who provide telecommuting to their employees. Telecommuting has successfully reduced traffic and energy use, and the EPA reports that if just 10 percent of the nation's workforce telecommuted just one day a week, Americans would conserve more than 1.2 million gallons of fuel per week.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses, and to working with my colleagues on this committee and with our colleagues on Banking and Commerce to define the appropriate role the Federal government should have in our Nation’s surface transportation system and to identify and address our national surface transportation investment needs as a means of improving economic growth.