Statement of Basil Barna
Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory
ISTEA Reauthorization
March 22, 1997

I am really here for three simple reasons today. The first reason is that transportation is a critical part of our Nation's infrastructure. In the deliberations of this subcommittee and all of us here involved, it is going to have a far-reaching effect on our national security, our economic competitiveness, and our environmental future.

The second reason that I am here is that the national labs since the 1940s have been a critical part of our Nation's future in terms of determining what are the solutions to "Grand Challenge'' types of problems. A grand challenge type of problem is a problem that is so complex and has such far-reaching impacts that we have to mobilize our national resources in terms of Federal laboratories and universities to work on the public good. And a sustainable transportation system for the 21st century is such a grand challenge.

Finally, I am here today because the Pacific Northwest has the ability to mobilize its technical resources in a way and in a partnership that can have real national and global impact. With its unique mix of rural and urban infrastructures, the technical resources of two national laboratories, excellent universities, and world-class

technology industries, we have the potential to fundamentally change how this Nation moves its freight, people, and information.

The seeds of this greater cooperation throughout this region have already been sown through formal and informal collaborations that exist right now. Michael Kyte just mentioned the Idaho consortium, which is very beneficial to us, a great deal of value. But, the principles of that consortium have led to greater cooperation and have been extended to other regional universities, such as Montana State, and other state transportation departments that include not only Idaho, but Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Utah, Oregon, and Washington. Many great informal collaborations going on.

As great as these collaborations have been and is beneficial, we need to do more. In order to get some scale as to why this is such a problem, why this is a grand challenge, consider the following. We have already heard about the 60 percent fatality figure. Perhaps even more significant is in a rural state like Idaho or Montana that fatality figure is over 80 percent.

From another perspective, in a typical year, 1993 is the year I have the figures for, the Federal highway user tax distribution to the states ranged from $600 per lane-mile to $21,000 per lane-mile. Now, rural states generally receive less, urban states receive more. Is that fair? This very well may or may not be fair, but without scientific tools, without research to clearly trace the effects on society, our policy-makers have little basis from which seek real national benefit. We need better information, better tools. And these facts point to some of the fundamental differences between urban and rural transportation systems. Our Nation's commerce couldn't survive without a vital network of rural highways linking our urban centers and also linking our agricultural products to seaports. Public policy has to strike a balance between the benefits of a coordinated national system and ensuring the local decision-makers, many of which were here today, have the resources to solve the problems that they know best. Now, the right kind of research can help assist this process.

There are also some significant issues from an energy, environment, and national security viewpoint. Transportation is an industry that consumes 27 percent of our Nation's energy budget. That's a big chunk. More than that, our transportation system is 97 percent dependent on oil as a fuel for its vehicles. Two-thirds of that oil is imported from foreign sources, and this obviously creates a significant cost in terms of exposure in national security. It costs a lot of money to maintain a carrier in the Persian Gulf. These types of issues demand that we treat our Nation's transportation system as a critical resource. To continue the efforts begun by the landmark ISTEA legislation in 1991, we must ensure that reauthorization includes a serious effort to mobilize our Nation's science base to revitalize the whole system.

INEEL is deeply involved, can and should be part of this solution. It is a little-known fact that the INEEL site and its bus fleet is serving as a testbed for commercial vehicle safety equipment that will be installed at the East Boise Port of Entry later this year. Together with our state partners, who have been mentioned before, we are deploying advanced technology to keep unsafe trucks off the highway there. A similar partnership will also be field testing a composite bridge on the INEEL site this year in an effort to show how advanced materials can help renew the Nation's aging infrastructure. I can't remember how many times I heard "bridge'' today, but it was many times.

The synergy demonstrated in these new projects compliments long-standing INEEL role in electric and hybrid vehicle development, aviation safety, waste and hazardous material transportation, and alternative fuels development. For the future we are convinced that the major areas of progress will be in joint research programs that will take a systems engineering approach to how we design, build, and maintain our nation's transportation system. In one such effort we are teamed with Sandia National Laboratory in proposing a new program to prove the principle of Simultaneous Vehicle/Infrastructure Design, SVID. The first focus of this program will be on extending the lifetime of our pavements and bridges through improved materials and vehicle designs that minimize their impact on the infrastructure. If properly executed, and we will ensure that this is the case, this system's approach would vastly improve the way we integrate infrastructure, vehicles, and users.

As a final point, I would like to emphasize that if we are to take this grand challenge seriously, we must be bold and innovative in forming new partnerships. Reauthorization should support this process and provide a basis for building these partnerships. Perhaps more than any other industry, transportation is a balancing act between diverse and sometimes opposing forces. The national laboratories can serve an integral role in helping bring these forces together to work on national issues.