(Remarks as prepared for delivery)
Today we are holding a hearing on the nomination of Victor M. Mendez to be the Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). I would like to thank Mr. Mendez for being here today and welcome him to the Committee.
FHWA is an agency of the Department of Transportation and is charged with oversight of several programs, the largest of which, the Federal-aid Highway Program, provides funding to the states to assist in constructing highways and making highways and traffic operations safe and more efficient.
Another major program overseen by FHWA is the Federal Lands Highway Program through which FHWA works with Federal Land Management Agencies and Indian tribes to manage the approximately 300,000 mile road network that serves Federal and Indian lands.
Combined, these programs are maintained at about $40 billion a year.
States depend on this Federal funding. Traditionally the Federal government has provided about 40% of the nation’s total investment in transportation. Without continued funding, states would have to make significant cuts to their already underfunded transportation programs.
Highways and bridges built in the 1950’s and 1960’s are reaching the end of their expected service life, and additional funding is needed for major repair or replacement.
Similarly, transit systems are aging and many communities are in need of new or expanded service.
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 and accommodate expected growth in population.
A key issue for the next Administrator of FHWA will be management of dwindling resources in the Highway Trust Fund which supplies most of the funding that FHWA administers.
According to DOT and other Obama Administration officials, the Highway Trust Fund is estimated to have insufficient cash by August of this year to make good on prior commitments and therefore an additional $5 to 7 billion will be needed to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent through the end of fiscal year 2009.
In addition, Administration officials have estimated that an additional $8 to $10 billion is the amount needed to pay immediate cash needs if the overall program is to be maintained at current funding levels through the end of fiscal year 2010.
The need to maintain a sustainable funding source for our critical infrastructure must be a central focus of our efforts. Investment in transportation creates jobs and is crucial to our long-term prosperity.
The current highway, transit and highway safety authorization, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), expires at the end of fiscal year 2009.
Additional revenue will be needed to merely maintain existing programs. And much more revenue will be needed if Congress wants to provide additional resources to states struggling to improve existing infrastructure.
This Committee is working on a new bill which will be called MAP-21, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century. This bill gives us the opportunity to take a fresh look at the current program and make the transformational changes necessary to ensure our nation’s transportation system will meet our needs in the coming years.
If confirmed, we expect to work closely with you and Secretary LaHood on this important legislation.
Thank you again for appearing before this Committee today. I look forward to hearing your testimony.