ISTEA Reauthorization
April 7, 1997

I'm Raymond Pocino, vice president, eastern regional manager of the Laborers International Union of North America, representing Delaware, eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York City.

I want to thank Chairman Warner, Senator Lautenberg, Senator Moynihan, and Senator Baucus for the opportunity to appear here this afternoon and give testimony on behalf of the reauthorization of the ISTEA.

This landmark legislation has been of enormous benefit to the entire northeast corridor, and because this region plays such a key role in facilitating America's ready access to the world marketplace, I would suggest that ISTEA allocations to the New Jersey and New York metropolitan area have a spill-over effect that ultimately benefits the entire Nation.

No modern developed nation can thrive without an extensive and highly-advanced transportation infrastructure. Without continuous investment in this transportation infrastructure, a modern economy fails to grow.

There is a kind of double inefficiency at work when we ignore our roads. First, there is a loss of productivity. It is estimated, for instance, that the cost of trucking goods rises some 6.3 cents per mile when road conditions decline from good to fair.

Secondly, there is the higher price tag which occurs when repairs are finally undertaken. A bridge that receives regular maintenance will last twice as long as one that does not. The cost of maintaining is a tiny fraction of constructing a new bridge.

Simply put, there is a crucial link between investments in transportation and our Nation's ability to compete globally. That is why ISTEA has played such a critical role in our Nation's life over the past six years, and that is why Congress must move quickly to reauthorize ISTEA without disrupting either its revenue flow or the status of the projects it supports.

ISTEA has proven its worth time and time again. It allocates its funding based upon needs. It supports State and local decision-making. It provides resources for air quality programs. And it promotes public transit and the concept of intermodalism.

There are few other regions of the country where the intermodal mix of highways, bridges, mass transit, airports, and maritime facilities is as prevalent as it is here in the northeast. And I believe it is fair to say there are no other regions where economic and quality of life issues are as intertwined with transportation as they are here.

New Jersey has an excess of 40,000 miles of roadway, where nearly 60 million vehicle miles are traveled annually, the most heavily-traveled roadways in the Nation. More than 2.3 billion passenger miles are traveled on buses and trains annually in New Jersey. Some 83 percent of New Jersey's workers get to their jobs by auto travel.

As Senator Frank Lautenberg aptly describes it, transportation is New Jersey's lifeblood.

The northeast was perhaps the hardest hit of all regions by the economic downturn that marked the first half of this decade. New Jersey, alone, has lost more than 325,000 jobs since 1989. The construction workers I represent -- and, indeed, those of all the construction trades -- have suffered through 40, 50, and 60 percent unemployment rates over the past six years.

The $870 million which New Jersey receives annually from ISTEA has helped fill this job void. Transportation officials tell us that New Jersey has some 237,000 ISTEA-related jobs, a tremendous return on the investment. It would be an unmitigated economic disaster for New Jersey to lose that source of revenue, not only because of the existing jobs and projects that would be eliminated, but because of the future jobs and projects that would never see the light of day.

I believe these numbers also emphasize the importance of retaining ISTEA's need-based funding formula and rejecting arguments to change the formula to one that is based upon States' contributions to the highway trust fund. Different States truly have different needs.

In closing, I reiterate that ISTEA has been an economic life preserver for States heavily urbanized with aging transportation infrastructure. It has meant jobs, continued competitiveness in the marketplace, environmental upgrading, and an improved quality of life for tens of millions of people.

On behalf of the 750,000 members of the Laborers International Union, I respectfully urge the members of this subcommittee to approve reauthorization of ISTEA without significant changes and to maintain its current need-based funding formula which has served the program and our Nation so well.

Thank you very much for this opportunity.