ISTEA Reauthorization
April 7, 1997

Thank you very much, Senator. Welcome to New York City.

I want to extend my thanks to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and its Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee for inviting me to speak at this very important field hearing on the reauthorization of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act.

In particular, I'd like to thank you, Senator Warner, the subcommittee chairman, Senator Baucus, the ranking member of both the committee and subcommittee, our esteemed Senators Moynihan, D'Amato, and Lautenberg for all of the attention that you are paying to this. I appreciate it for the people of the City of New York.

I want to thank Governor Pataki for the leadership that he has shown on this issue for the good of the people of the city and the State, and Governor Whitman for the cooperative spirit and understanding that this is something that affects an entire region and is important to all of us.

As Congress engages in the debate on the reauthorization of ISTEA, I urge you to consider New York City's perspective on this landmark legislation and its particular impact on the City of New York, the surrounding region, and, in particular, on cities and urban centers nationwide.

Since its enactment in 1991, ISTEA has been a catalyst for projects and initiatives that are designed to meet the important objectives of enhancing transportation mobility, improving environmental quality, and increasing economic development. Preserving the fundamental structure of ISTEA is essential in order to continue developing a national intermodal transportation system that effectively secures America's leading role in the global marketplace.

In fulfilling this policy goal, the most important feature of ISTEA for New York City has been the flexibility that it has given us in determining transportation solutions for what is an enormously complex transportation system in the City of New York.

In a city the size and density of New York, the transportation system is the lifeblood of our economic vitality. Sometimes it's critical for reasons of saving lives, the ability of emergency vehicles to be able to move through the City of New York quickly, safely, efficiently. And it's also vital to creating a hub that maintains both the city's economic vitality and the quality of life for its citizens.

I often refer to the City of New York as the capital of the world, and for reasons that I think are apparent. We're significant, and the world's most significant business center, a center for finance and commerce. We're home to six of the world's top ten security firms. Ninety-three of the world's top one hundred banks have their principal office or a main office in the City of New York. We're a major retail and fashion center and advertising and communications center.

As the leading United States destination for overseas visitors, much of the economic vitality of the United States and a lot of the reputation of the United States is developed by what people think of the City of New York.

What makes this concentration of economic activity possible is the Nation's most complex transportation system. In a very small geographic area, really, that can be summarized as three islands and a peninsula, we move over a million cars a day, well over five million riders from three States, at least, in mass transportation. And, while our transportation infrastructure is enormously extensive and has been described by a number of people as a manmade natural resource, it is also old and aging and in need of significant rehabilitation.

ISTEA recognizes that there are many components of the transportation network and that an essential policy goal is to create and improve existing intermodal connections that provide key regional links for the City of New York and for other urban areas in the United States.

A primary focus has been the need for capital investment in what already exists, the infrastructure that already exists of bridges and roadways and transit systems.

As America's economy becomes more international, our cities become more important to us than they ever were before, and in that respect our largest city, New York, becomes even more important, not only to all of us who live here, but to the entire country, as a way in which we are going to effectively compete with countries around the world.

Investing in the transportation infrastructure of our urban centers to improve access and mobility means not only investing in them but investing in the ability of America to compete with European cities and Asian cities and cities in South America and other parts of North America.

We need to realize what many European and Asian nations realized a long time ago: that an investment in the principal cities in those nations is an investment in the nation's economy; that this isn't an either/or game that we're playing here. If we invest in New York City, we're investing in America.

The governor, quite correctly, has emphasized the numbers and the analysis done, I think beginning 20 years ago by Senator Moynihan, which shows that New York State contributes far more to the Federal Government than we receive back.

New York City is a very substantial portion of that deficit. But what that does show is this is a source of great wealth and a source of great capital for America, and preserving its infrastructure is necessary if we expect that 20, 30, and 40 years from now New York City, New York State, this region, New Jersey, Connecticut can produce as much.

Over the next decade, the city will have to spend over $4 billion to maintain and repair hundreds of bridges and elevated structures. In particular, the East River bridges are among the Nation's oldest and busiest spans, and they're truly intermodal. They carry some of the Nation's most crowded subway lines, as well as cars and trucks and just about every means of transportation -- passengers and bicycles, as well.

To preserve these vital links and reduce repair needs, New York City's Department of Transportation has successfully used ISTEA funds to introduce a comprehensive program of preventive maintenance so that these bridges do not in the future fall into the disrepair that they did in the late 1970s and 1980s and into the early 1990s.

At the same time, however, New York City has to meet the transportation needs of the future and of the 21st century.

My Administration has taken steps to assure New York City's future role in international commerce by advancing the construction of a freight rail tunnel across our harbor, along with the development of a hub port to handle the megaships of the future.

We've also strongly supported the long overdue creation of direct rail links with the airports so that New York City can move into the 21st century as a transportation center.

New York has been among the national leaders in the introduction of advanced transportation technology. Given the heavy congestion of our roads and rails, along with the fiscal constraints on all of us, we need to sensibly manage our roadway network and transit systems.

Along with my testimony I'm submitting a report that's prepared by a city-wide inter-agency task force that outlines New York City's perspective on what has been accomplished under ISTEA, and it really is considerable. The report highlights the successful innovations using funds for enhancing the movement of goods, promoting high-speed ferry service -- if we are three islands and a peninsula, which we are, we should be using our waterways more, and we're successfully doing that, with your help -- extending our bicycle and pedestrian network, and encouraging the introduction of clean-fueled vehicle taxis and buses.

In closing, I want to reemphasize that cities are the Nation's economic centers, and in an increasingly competitive world economy, cities are going to be even more important to us than they have been in the past. It's time for Washington to invest substantial resources in the success of America's cities.

This program has been one that has moved us in the right direction. Our transportation infrastructure, our roads, our bridges, our tunnels, our rail links are key to America's economic future.

Washington's responsibility for regulating interstate and international commerce should extend, as it does now, but it should continue to help maintain and improve our transportation infrastructure. In fact, by providing funds to upgrade transportation links with America's cities, the Federal Government will realize a great dividend in terms of increased commerce and increased trade and an increased share of the international economy.

Cities are the way America competes in the global marketplace, to a very large extent, and there is no better way to ensure America's future than to invest in the infrastructure that already exists in our city to move people and goods.

I thank you again for the opportunity to present New York City's views and concerns. I thank you very much for holding this hearing here, because it's of great significance to us. And I hope to work with you toward the reauthorization of ISTEA during this Congressional session.

Thank you very much.