Statement of Senator Jim Jeffords
Motion to Proceed to the Highway Bill Mr. President, I rise today to add my voice to those calling for the approval of the motion to proceed that we will soon vote on. For more than three years Congress has been trying to pass a highway bill. Today we are taking one more step in the long road towards passage of this important legislation. Mr. President, our nation needs this bill. We need this bill because it will make our roads and transit systems more efficient and safer. This year it is estimated that 33 percent of America’s major roads are in poor or mediocre condition; 27 percent of America’s bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete; 37 percent of America’s major urban roads are congested; and 42,000 Americans will die in traffic accidents. We need this bill because a fully funded bill is good for the economy. The Department of Transportation says that for every one billion dollars of federal spending on highway construction nationwide, 47,500 jobs are generated annually; and that every dollar invested in the nation’s highway system yields 5 dollars and 40 cents in economic benefits because of reduced delays, improved safety and reduced vehicle operating costs. We need this bill to maintain our current highways and bridges than ever before, while demand for our roadways only increases. The Federal Highway Administration says that 52 percent of highway funds spent by states went to preserving highway systems while just 19 percent went to building new roads and bridges. At the same time, traffic congestion costs American motorists $69.5 billion dollars a year in wasted time and fuel costs and we spend an additional 3.5 billion hours a year stuck in traffic. This bill isn’t perfect. In fact, I think it needs additional funding. The White House has suggested an overall funding level for surface transportation of $284 billion dollars over six years. This despite the President’s own Transportation Department saying we need at least $300 billion dollars to simply maintain the status quo, and something well above that level to make progress on conditions and performance. Thankfully, calls for increased funding have come from Republicans, Democrats and Independents; Members of the House and Senate, Governors and Mayors. But we will address the funding issue in due time. Today we must get cloture on this bill and move forward. Once again, I would like to thank the Senate leadership on both sides for their support of this bill. I would also like to pay tribute to Chairman Inhofe, and Senators Bond and Baucus for their support and cooperation in helping get us to where we are today.