MARCH 13, 1997

Mr. Chairman. I do not want to take much of the committee's time with an opening statement, but I do want to express my serious reservations with all the discussions centered around increasing the amount of eligible items paid for with Highway Trust Fund dollars.

Mr. Chairman, my constituents and motorists all over the country are getting hit in their wallets at least TWICE for our highway infrastructure! First at the pump when they pay the federal gas tax that was implemented with the promise that the revenue raised would be used for highway and bridge construction and maintenance. Second, when they pay in extra vehicle operating costs to drive on roads in need of repair--in my state of Missouri this averages to be $128 per motorist.

I haven't heard anyone disagree that we have tremendous infrastructure needs in this country. A report released on February 5 of this year on the state of Missouri's roads and bridges stated that Missouri has the seventh highest percentage of structurally deficient or functionally obsolete bridges in the country. Federal Highways has my state of Missouri tied for 6th from the bottom, with my colleague Senator Lautenberg's state of New distinction. Jersey sharing this horrible distinction.

According to the Department of Transportation, 25% of the nation's interstate bridges are classified as deficient or in poor condition, and this doesn't include the 28% plus number of deficient bridges on our arterial systems. In addition, according to an Associated Press article last June, more than a third of our nation's major roads are in immediate need of repair. In Missouri, more than half of our major roads are in poor or fair condition and in need of improvements.

Mr. Chairman, we also know that the condition of our nation's roads and bridges play a factor in highway safety.

Each day 114 Americans die on our nation's highways. This is equivalent to a major airline crash every single day. Several of these fatalities are directly related to poor highway infrastructure. Today during the House Transportation and Infrastructure hearing, the Winkler family from Moberly, Missouri will be testifying regarding the need to finish the expansion of Highway 63, a National Highway System road, to a four-lane highway. Mr. and Mrs. Winkler lost their son Tracy on October 25 when an out of state car pulled out to pass on the two-lane road and struck his pickup head on. Tracy's wife and three young children, as well as the rest of his family and friends are pushing for the highway investments needed in the State of Missouri, specifically Highway 63.

Mr. Chairman, I have yet to see the actual language for the Administration's NEXTEA proposal, but I have heard several comments about expanding the eligible items for funding out of the Highway Trust Fund. I will state now that I can not and will not support diverting more highway trust fund dollars for Amtrak and other non-contributing trust fund items.

How can we STEAL money from the highway trust fund for items that especially do not contribute, when we are not even close to meeting the highway and bridge needs this country is facing?