ISTEA Reauthorization
April 7, 1997

Governor Whitman. Chairman Warner, members of the subcommittee, good morning and thank you very much for the opportunity to speak before you this morning.

On behalf of the residents of the State of New Jersey, let me just say that I urge you to reauthorize the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act without substantive change.

Six years ago the Congress demonstrated remarkable leadership and vision in crafting ISTEA. Truly a piece of landmark legislation, ISTEA charted a course for a new transportation era in America, and I urge you to build on its accomplishments, not to abandon them.

Reauthorization of the Nation's highway and transit program is one of the most important issues facing the 105th Congress. Our ability to sustain and to strengthen the national transportation system is the cornerstone of our Nation's prosperity into the next century. The reauthorization of ISTEA must ensure that all States can meet the challenge of moving people and goods safely and efficiently.

New Jersey is one of the most critical links in the Nation's transportation infrastructure system. Located between two great metropolitan areas and situated in the middle of the northeast corridor, New Jersey's roads are the most heavily used in the Nation. Some 60 billion vehicle miles are traveled on the State's roads annually. Vehicle miles in New Jersey have increased 170 percent in just the past 30 years, while our population has only grown by 27 percent.

New Jersey, through its rail, maritime, and aviation facilities, is a critical gateway to the global marketplace of U.S. industries. New Jersey is the heart of the Nation's largest market. It is within one day's travel of 100 million consumers. Of the Nation's total freight, 10 percent either originates, terminates, or passes through New Jersey -- 850 million tons a year. Of this tonnage, 59 percent is strictly through-traffic -- freight having neither its origin nor its destination in New Jersey.

New Jersey's roads are under enormous strain. Of New Jersey's roadways, 30 percent are congested during peak commuter hours. Most of our highway network is over 30 years old. Of the 2,500 State bridges, 44 percent are functionally obsolete or structurally deficient. Of our road pavement, 30 percent is in fair or poor condition.

Infrastructure investment to meet these challenges is one of my highest priorities and a longstanding commitment of the New Jersey Legislature. While this subcommittee's jurisdiction does not include public transportation, I'd like to mention the important role public transportation plays in New Jersey.

Over 1.1 million daily riders use New Jersey's public transit network, which was originally built by the private sector. During peak hours, 87 percent of all commuters going from New Jersey to Manhattan use public transit, as do more than one out of every two commuters from New Jersey to Philadelphia. Bringing our public transit network into good repair will require an investment estimated at $2 billion.

In 1984, New Jersey established a dedicated transportation trust fund. From 1990 to 1995, the State trust fund investment was $565 million annually, and since 1996 the State trust fund investments have increased from that $565 million to $700 million annually. And in fiscal year 1998, which begins on July 1 for us, we will be asking for a one-time increase in the cap to allow us to spend $900 million.

In fiscal year 1998, 50 percent of the State's highway capital investment will be funded by New Jersey dollars. Combining our trust fund with our toll roads and public transit investments, New Jersey spends over $2 billion in non-Federal resources on its transportation system every year. Yet, as the subcommittee can see, we still have tremendous needs.

The concerns that I have raised are not unique to New Jersey, but they demonstrate a key reason why the distribution of Federal highway funds should be based on need. Any formula considered by Congress must recognize that New Jersey, the northeast, and port cities like Norfolk and Chicago have older, more heavily-used, and more multi-modal transportation systems than in other States.

I believe that the distribution of Federal highway funds should be based on the age and condition of the State's infrastructure, the State's traffic density and congestion levels, total freight movement on the State system, each State's total transportation investment, and the air quality goals to be met.

The one factor that should not determine the allocation of funds is where motor fuel is sold. You may buy gas in New York and drive to Virginia, but you go through New Jersey.

Let me also address the issue of why air quality and the congestion mitigation and air quality program are critical.

Air quality and transportation are inextricably linked. Because States like New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut are burdened with air pollution from States in the midwest, we are required to spend millions of dollars in additional transportation improvements to help us meet Federal clean air standards. Mobile source emissions contribute greatly to our air quality problems. The CMAQ program directs funds to the Nation's most polluted areas based upon the population affected by that pollution.

Discussions are underway to modify that formula to include the severity of the pollution problem. New Jersey supports those discussions. Those who argue that New Jersey receives a disproportionate share of highway trust funds must also concede that we receive a disproportionate share of the Nation's dirty air.

At the same time, the formula should assist other States that are seeking to improve their transportation networks -- States like Missouri, which is struggling to address a traffic fatality caused in part by the State's many two-lane roads.

Further, we must be sensitive to small population States with large land areas such as Montana and the Rocky Mountain States. Distribution formulas have to recognize their unique concerns, as well.

While each State should be guaranteed a minimum allocation, this guarantee should not and cannot result in a dramatic shift of funds from one region of the country to another. We are one Nation with common goals and common wealth, not a commonwealth of 50 nations. That is why New Jerseyans send $17 billion more to Washington than we receive back in Federal benefits, which places us 49th out of all the 50 States.

New Jerseyans contribute to the Nation's common wealth in greater proportion than we draw from that wealth except in transportation, where our needs exceed our contributions to the highway trust fund. But it is also true that our transportation system keeps America's economic engine going.

America's transportation goals should be to ensure the best, the safest, and the most competitive transportation network that this Nation can afford. To achieve this, we must direct our finite resources where they are needed the most.

The reauthorization of ISTEA must recognize and fund investments that are strategic to the Nation's economy, help our Nation to better compete in the global environment, and ensure the infrastructure renewal of our existing transportation systems.

Setting aside the formula issues, the basic program structure of ISTEA is sound and should be preserved.

ISTEA directs funds to ensure system preservation and economic growth. ISTEA increases State funding flexibility, encourages intermodalism, promotes regional decision-making, and links transportation investment to air quality objectives.

Simply put, ISTEA works.

Streamlining can be achieved largely through regulatory change. I urge this subcommittee to identify specific areas of regulatory change and direct U.S. DOT to implement these necessary changes.

I am committed to supporting these changes and will support the subcommittee with my recommendations and provide them with my recommendations in subsequent material that we will send to you.

The bottom-line goal of ISTEA reauthorization is to make our Nation strong. To achieve this, we must direct resources to bring our existing infrastructure into a state of good repair; provide congestion relief so that we reduce the cost of shipping goods and increase the productivity of Americans who are otherwise stuck in traffic; improve access to our ports, airports, and rail terminals; encourage each State to maximize its total transportation investment, while recognizing that some States are not in a position to spend enormous resources due to their small populations and large land areas; provide resources to address the air quality goals of our Nation.

Mr. Chairman, members of the subcommittee, thank you again for the opportunity to testify.