Statement of Don Clarkson
Vice President, Clarkson Construction Company
Kansas City, MO
ISTEA Reauthorization
March 26, 1997

Thank you. My name is Don Clarkson. I am with the Clarkson Construction Company based here in Kansas City. I also want to thank Senators Warner, Chafee and especially Senator Bond for their tireless efforts on behalf of transportation. Also, I would like to thank the representatives McCarthy and Dannon for the same.

I will address the reasons why ISTEA must be reauthorized and how these reasons relate to Missouri. We, in the construction industry, maintain an awareness of a properly-functioning highway and bridge system. Fast, reliable and economic transportation is paramount to our nation's productivity and international competitive position. Our highways and bridges are of our greatest importance.

Seventy-two percent of Missouri's goods and services, and that's $170 billion a year, are delivered over our nation's highways. As Senator Warner has said, the transportation of products to and from coastal ports will become increasing important as international trade grows. Reducing transportation costs through a more efficient highway system is essential. Over 55 percent of our nation's manufacturers, as referred to earlier, use just-in-time delivery of goods and services.

But furthermore, in the next decade there will be 25 to 30 million new jobs added, hopefully. By 2000, domestic freight tonnage will increase 30 percent. By 2010, overall highway travel is expected to top 3-1/2 trillion vehicle miles per year. That's a half again what we have today. Vehicle travel in Missouri will double its 1995 levels in the next ten years.

If the U.S. businesses are to become more competitive and if the American public is expected to have a standard of living rise, we must do the following: As our improved -- we must address our nation's highways. If U.S. businesses are to become more competitive, as they must, and the American public has the opportunity to improve its standard of living, then we are soon forced to address the condition of our nation's highway system.

And I believe this is important and this is why I use the word "maybe" a minute ago. As our improved transportation system allows our businesses and their products to be more competitive, the employment opportunities necessary for our increasing population will be created.

Our Highway Trust Fund paid for the construction and the maintenance of our 900 plus thousand mile Federal aid highway system. This system has spurred the development of the State and local highway systems so necessary for the healthy activity of our nation's economy.

There are some alarming trends. The United States investment in all types of infrastructure ranks dead last behind all of our major G7 competitors as a percent of our GDP. We spent only 39 billion in 1993 on roads and bridges or about $16 billion less than the investment needed according to the FHWA just to maintain current conditions. FHWA estimates an annual investment of around $64 billion to improve conditions to address the unfunded requirements noted above.

It's particularly alarming that capital outlay in the United States has now dropped to only $16 per 1,000 vehicle miles traveled from the $32 per 1,000 that we were investing in 1960. 1960, I think we will all recall, was a time when the U.S. economic star was surely rising on a worldwide basis, and it's not right now.

But to address your question, I believe that this phenomenon, this increase in capital investment per vehicle-mile-traveled, may well correlate to the recently-deteriorating safety and fatality rates. I think that it could be found that the necessary upgrades of lanes, four-laning, bridge widening, so necessary both in the rural and the urban areas, will do much more to provide real safety than these individual safety enhancement projects that are carved out in the program, and I believe that the Winklers can testify to that.

In fact, Missouri's investment decreased 16 percent from 1985 to 1995 while travel increased 51 percent.

There have been many studies performed by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Congressional Budget Office, the Federal Reserve Bank, even, that shows that spending specifically on highway transportation projects improves the U.S. economic productivity, contributes to an improved standard of living and yields long-term economic rates of return even higher than the average in private capital.

There's some more immediate benefits. Improved highway conditions immediately improve air quality by reducing auto emissions. As Senator Bond has said, 43 percent of the Missouri's rivers and freeways were congested last year.

The Missouri Department of Transportation must somehow with Federal help, Federal aid, build the promised improvements described in its 1986-1989 need studies for all of these reasons. Each billion dollars invested in highway capital improvements generates over $3 billion in economic activity. That's the short-term gain. Missouri's share of Federal funding alone in 1997 will provide 17,000 jobs. Vehicle operating costs are immediately reduced. In Missouri, motorists spent $459 million last year, and that's $128 per motorist in extra, unnecessary vehicle repairs and operating costs because of driving on bad roads. Unnecessary if they had good roads.

In summary, there is a rising economic tide, both short-term and long-term, that is available to U.S. businesses, consumers, employees, and the public in general if we will just rehabilitate and expand our National Highway System. This system represents an investment made in the past that allowed us to achieve and now support our current standard of living. Our continuing ability to compete economically and improve the quality of life for ourselves and our children will require additional investments towards the need to expand and improve the existing highway system.

And the question that comes up, I believe, in these proceedings, is that maybe the Senators could teach us or their staffs could teach us how to expand the outspoken support on this all-important endeavor to beyond meetings like this and get the public energized on what really is the best for all of us.