Statement of Senator Jim Jeffords
The Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Act of 2003

November 12, 2003 Chairman Inhofe, you are to be commended for your leadership in advancing a strong, national, bipartisan transportation bill. I have enjoyed working with you and with Chairman Bond of the transportation subcommittee, and its ranking member Senator Reid. Mr. Chairman, our staffs have worked together very well. I want to note that Ruth Van Mark has been the very definition of grace under pressure. She has been both forceful and fair in working with all staff. Also, your staff director Andy Wheeler has done a remarkable job managing this process. I thank them both. This was a very difficult bill to write because the cost of simply maintaining or repairing our existing system of highways far exceeds expected revenues from gas taxes. Yet, every member of this Committee wants to do more than just repair and maintain the past. Nonetheless, this proposal will benefit every state, and every region, and assumes significant program growth – it assumes a $255 billion highway program over the next six years. Because this is a massive, comprehensive proposal touching on all aspects of transportation it contains some provisions I would have written differently, and some which I am sure you would have written differently. Nonetheless, it is a balanced and comprehensive package which will benefit the nation. It embodies sound principles, which promote our national highways and byways, bridges and bike-paths. This legislation is also about our quality of life. In the modern world, a transportation bill is about so much more than just how to get from here to there. It is about improving our lives by making traveling safer and more efficient. It is about fostering commerce and moving goods quickly and cheaply. The key to our success in putting forth this bill is based on several points. First, the revised program contains elements from current law that worked well, and blends in ideas from the Administration and from our extensive Committee hearings. Mr. Chairman, between us we had over 100 witnesses testify at thirteen Committee hearings and round-table discussions. Second, the bill meets system needs for strong growth in a manner that increases assistance to every state, and every region. Third, if enacted, the bill will generate millions of well-paying jobs since every billion dollars spent on the highway program can generate up to 47,500 jobs. Fourth, all states will benefit under this bill. Every state contributes to the Highway Trust Fund. And every state has needs. Fifth, the bill continues to put our trust in our states – the bill greatly increases their flexibility to address transportation concerns. I look forward to working with the Commerce and Banking Committees on the Senate floor who are working on transit and additional safety matters to be added to this effort. I want to mention a few aspects of this bill that are especially important. The significant growth in Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funding will help states improve air quality, reduce pollution and address congestion. The bill makes it easier for states to mitigate project effects on habitat and wetlands, and retains and expands popular programs such as enhancements, recreational trails and scenic byways. The increased intermodal flexibility set forth in the bill will allow states, if they wish, to improve freight handling and movement. A well-funded safety title - at the request of the Administration - is also included. We’ve also included a program called Safe Routes to Schools to protect grade school children as the walk or ride their bikes to school. The research on technologies to make our roads and bridges last dramatically longer and to build them safer could also result from funding provided in this bill. A number of provisions in this bill will be important to my state of Vermont. Under the bill, more bridges will be repaired, including bridges on the town roads. The Interstate system, an economic lifeline in Vermont, will receive priority consideration. The bill provides for increased funding for border capacity, which will help our trade relationship with Canada. And as we seek to address the challenge of sprawl, Vermont and the nation will benefit from the bill’s recognition that, “the connection between land use and infrastructure is significant.” I want to make one final point: this massive transportation bill is about people. It’s about making it easier to commute to work; it’s about making roads safer for our families; it’s about preserving scenic beauty for future generations; it’s about helping our children get to school safely; and it’s about being able to move freight efficiently and cheaply; and it’s about making America better. Thank you.