Statement of Sen. Harry Reid
ISTEA Reauthorization
Las Vegas, NV
March 28, 1997

I first want to introduce John Chafee to the people of the State of Nevada. Senator Chafee is chairman of the full committee, one of the major committees we have in the Congress, the Environment and Public Works Committee. He is a person of outstanding credentials, to say the least, and I think it's important that we spend a minute or two just talking a little bit about him, because although we know him in Washington, I think an introduction here is appropriate.

He is a graduate of one of America's finest law schools, Harvard, but I think more important than that is what he did prior to going to law school at Harvard. He was 19 years old; he was a Marine involved in the invasion of Guadalcanal. The definitive work written on the Korean War, a book called "The Coldest War," is a history of John Chafee, basically; James Brady wrote the book, but it was all about the Captain that led his forces during that "coldest war." John Chafee has an outstanding military record, which was certainly identified when he became Secretary of the Navy. He has been Governor of the State of Rhode Island, and Senator Bryan, in passing, I don't think we should let go unnoticed that he voted with us on the interim storage of nuclear waste in Nevada last year, for which, if we could pin a big medal on his chest, we would do that.

Seven years ago, Mr. Chairman, I convened a transportation summit here in southern Nevada. The purpose was to determine what we could do; then, growth was just beginning to go as it is today. I brought people from all over the world to testify about what we could do to avoid some of the problems that existed around the rest of the country. We wanted to try to be a little bit visionary and see what we could do to avoid some of the problems.

We had no idea that growth would continue over this seven-year period the way that it has, but it has been the fastest-growing State and the fastest-growing community. But one of the things we wanted to do was to make sure that we developed a framework so that there could be cooperation among the Federal Government, the State government, the local governments, and the business community.

I think if there were an example of how this has taken place, it has taken place here, and I hope that through the hearing today we will be able to show how there has been cooperation. We're going to have witnesses from the local entities testifying as to what they've been able to do. We're going to have a witness testify as to what has been done by the resort industry; they have done a yeoman share to alleviate traffic problems with innovative things like overpasses over the Strip. I think you will be impressed by what we have been able to do.

I have appreciated you and Chairman Moynihan and Chairman Baucus during the period of time that he was chairman of the committee, allowing input from members of the committee. This is a bill that wasn't written by the Chairman -- or the ranking member of the committee, as you were at that time -- but there was input from all members of the committee. I was able to be on the conference of the committee and to help with the final legislation.

I think the key to mention to people here is, what is this legislation all about? What it's all about is a mother trying to take her kid to school, and being stuck in traffic. It's about someone trying to get to work, and they can't get to work; they've got work piled up on their desk, but they can't move because they're stuck in traffic. That's what this legislation is all about. People all over America have problems like we have here, and what we're trying to do with this legislation is approach it in a different manner. We want this legislation to be more than pouring more cement and laying more asphalt, and I think that was the concept of Chairman Chafee and Senator Moynihan in the last ISTEA bill. We wanted to do things in an innovative way. We wanted the Environment and Public Works Committee to be a committee that did take into consideration not only the public works aspect of this legislation, but also the environmental aspect of this legislation.

Transportation represents a national concern, as I've mentioned. As the Chairman has stated, the growth here is something that we all need to be aware of.

I have mentioned how we have come together, Mr. Chairman, as a community. About six weeks ago I attended a conference that was held here, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and others, called "Las Vegas Vision 2020," which is trying to project ahead to the year 2020 as to what we need to do in this community to meet the problems of the community. There was a mix of government and the private sector, and I was very impressed, having attended that meeting, with what the local community is doing to look ahead.

With the completion of the Interstate Highway System, it is vital that we turn our attention to designing multimodal transportation policies that will allow us not only to maintain the infrastructure we have, but also to move forward to meet the demands of the new century. In many ways, the transportation issues of the future will be more difficult than those in the past. We live in an increasingly diverse Nation, one that is no longer able to be solely dependent upon the building of more roads and more roads. Even in a State as vast as Nevada -- a so-called "bridge State" where we desperately need more roads -- we are also looking seriously at different ways of carrying people.

This is the State in the United States that first started talking about magnetic levitation. We had a Governor by the name of Bill Breer who first started talking about this 20 years ago. Frankly, people at the time thought that he was a little touched when he talked about magnetic levitation, but he wasn't; he was a visionary, and we hope that with the extreme excitement that Senator Moynihan and you have expressed for looking at different modes of transportation, specifically magnetic levitation, that we can look to different ways of moving people.

We have our own business entrepreneurs here, people up and down the Strip, who already have ways of moving thousands and thousands of people everyday off our highways with what they call "people movers," and they're doing more of that, and we'll hear some of that in our testimony today.

Some of the projects we'll hear, Mr. Chairman, described here today are already up and moving, others are in the concept stage, others are way off in the future, but what all our witnesses today share in common is a goal of moving people forward and moving goods quickly and in a safe manner and one that we hope is not harmful to the environment. We no longer live, as you mentioned, in an era of limitless budgets, even for something as vital in the future as transportation. We must be smart and strategic in how we move forward, and the one last thing I want to stress, Mr. Chairman, as I asked Rodney Slater when he appeared before the committee, is this: is the Administration going to recognize State and local government from making sacrifices over and above what is called for in the Bill, last year's Bill? And he said yes. You will hear here today from the Governor and others how the local government and State government have really made sacrifices, doing things with their own, with no Federal help, spending hundreds of millions of dollars doing that.