ISTEA Reauthorization
March 28, 1997

Thank you, Senator Reid, and Mr. Chairman. The good news for you, as Chairman of the National Governor's Association, is that I can no longer be the lead Governor on transportation, so I won't be asked -- as I have for so many years been in the role. I am pleased to come here to Las Vegas to discuss reauthorization of the ISTEA concept.

As has been mentioned many times, we're the fastest growing city in the Nation and Las Vegas is an ideal location to witness to some of ISTEA's greatest successes and also see some of the Act's shortfalls.

Nevada's demand for road capacity, more advanced technology for highway systems, better rail and commuter services is ever-increasing and it is essential for us that Congress pass a new transportation bill that goes beyond the original ISTEA and increase funding to accommodate Nevada and the Nation's transportation needs.

The population growth in the Las Vegas metropolitan area has exceeded 50 percent every 10 years since World War II, and there are certainly no signs of this growth slowing in the near future. To accommodate existing and projected congestion, it is essential that we widen two major highways through Las Vegas. I have requested that Congress provide for the addition of four lanes to U.S. 95 and two lanes to I-15 through Clark County.

In addition, U.S. 95 should be designated as part of the interstate system. Nevada's capitol should also be connected to the interstate system, as Carson City is one of only four capitol cities in the Nation not linked to the rest of the State by a major highway. Only the construction of nine miles from Reno to Carson City remains to be completed to connect the city to the rest of the State, and I have requested that Congress provide for this overdue project.

As well, Carson City is not the only Nevada city that has insufficient highway access. Nevada rural community is separated by vast areas of open space and must not be overlooked when reauthorizing or reformulating ISTEA.

A strong Federal transportation program is necessary to connect these cities and towns, and special consideration should be given to interstate maintenance. Nevada and other western States serve as a bridge for interstate trucking from the Pacific Coast to the East. Over 40 percent of the vehicles on rural Interstate 80 through Northern Nevada are trucks, and these descriptions of Nevada, I think, the needs can be seen as some of the State' characteristics, most important for reauthorization for ISTEA.

Nevada is one of the largest States in area and one of the smallest in population; one of the most rural, measured by population density, and the most urban measured by concentration in urban areas. It's a State with the largest percentage of land owned by the Federal Government, 87 percent, and, thus, the smallest private land ownership. It is the fastest growing State containing the fastest growing urban area, and for these reasons, Nevada is not only a transportation bridge State, but also a transportation policy bridge State.

The basic structure of ISTEA has served Nevada well, but there is much in STARS 2000 that is directly responsive to Nevada's distinctive characteristics and special needs.

One of the most frequently used north-south highways through Nevada is U.S. 93, which crosses the Colorado River at Hoover Dam. The sixty-year old two-lane road across the dam is overburden and will fail to accommodate projected traffic. It is the primary commuter route between not only Arizona and Nevada, but also Arizona and Utah. The time is long overdue for the Federal Government to construct a bypass bridge.

A commitment to intelligent transportation systems must be reaffirmed by the next formula. We should take advantage of the 21st century technology to modernize our urban streets and highway systems and get more value for the taxpayers. We've already taking steps in the Las Vegas metropolitan area to modernize traffic signals. The Las Vegas area commuter traffic system is currently being upgraded with the latest technology. Television cameras are being placed on 60-foot poles throughout the area to monitor traffic through electronic technology to adjust traffic flow appropriately. New control modulars are being placed at 500 signalized intersections and equipment at the central control center is being replaced.

The Las Vegas area computer traffic system is one of the few joint effort traffic control systems in the country. It is a cooperative effort between the Nevada Department of Transportation, Clark County, the City of Las Vegas, the City of North Las Vegas and the City of Henderson.

The development is underway to deploy a freeway management system along the congested U.S. 95 freeway to include video monitoring, ramp meters, change of all our message signs, radio information and service patrols. These systems work and should be utilized in other parts of Nevada and the nation.

Nevada's highway and transit demands go farther beyond the priorities that I just listed, and it is certainly not the only State that requires increased funding from ISTEA reauthorization.

Indeed, the nation's needs are great and regardless of what funding formula is selected, sufficient funding must be made available for our Federal highway system.

I am Chairman of the National Governors and have worked with the Nation's Governors to reach a collective agreement that a minimum of $26 billion a year for highways and $5 billion a year for transit is required to meet the nation's demands. The two co-chairs on the committee that I've selected, Governor Patton of Kentucky and Governor Schafer of North Dakota, have scheduled on April 14th a rather large information gathering in Washington, D.C., to include a lot of other road and highway transportation users. I expect there will be a lot of interest at that time.

As I stated to the Joint Congressional Budget Committee hearing earlier this month, America's transportation needs far exceed their current expenditures. Highway capacity has not kept pace with the rapid increase in highway use mileage by the nation's passenger and commercial fleet. The Administration's studies reveal a total transportation spending by all levels of government that would be needed to be increased by $18.2 billion annually, more than 40 percent, simply to maintain current highway, bridge and transit conditions and performance. A total of nearly $86.8 billion or nearly double the current annual spending by all levels of government would be required to achieve the needed improvements to the national transport system.

Both the President's 1998 budget and the 1997 Congressional Budget Resolution would reduce Federal transportation spending through the year 2002. Under the President's proposal, total funding would drop from $19.8 billion in 1998 to $19 billion in 2002, and the 1997 Congressional Budget Resolution reduced total transportation spending by 15 percent from 1998 to 2002. In constant dollars this drop is even more dramatic.

During the same time that Congress and the President proposed to disinvest in our national transportation system, revenues generated through the transportation user taxes will rise sharply. The annual fuel tax and other trust fund receipts to the highway account will increase by more than 10 percent, from $24.6 billion in 1998 to $27.2 billion in 2002, while annual revenues to the highway trust fund from all sources will increase by more than 15 percent over this period.

These steadily growing user tax revenues can support significant and much needed increases in Federal transportation investment. In highways alone annual dedicated revenues would support a funding level of $26 billion per year through 2002. An additional $5 billion annual for mass transit programs could also be supported by these growing revenues, and spending down the balance in highway trust funds, which has been the National Governor's position for as long as I've been involved in it, would permit an additional $4 billion annual on top of these levels. Spending all fuel taxes, including the 4.3 percent tax that is not been presently used for deficit reduction, would add another $7 billion.

When the Congress created a transportation trust fund, it made a commitment to the American taxpayers that these receipts would be dedicated to maintaining and improving our national transportation system. Disinvesting in this system at a time when the user tax revenues are increasing dramatically and spending the user tax and other dedicated revenues for purposes other than transportation threatens to undermine the moral and legal commitment on which these taxes are based.

Congress must not delay the investment in our national transportation system. Nevada and the rest of the nation depend on this commitment to prevent the further deterioration of its roads, increased congestion and lower economic productivity.

I would only clarify that my position on the 4.3 cent is personal. The National Governor's position, which I've testified in front of your committee on several occasions previously, suggested that be returned, but we take no position on the 4.3 cents, and believe that the dollar amounts that I outlined could be achieved without affecting that consideration. Thank you.