Statement of Ranking Member Barbara Boxer
Full Committee Hearing on the Importance of MAP-21 Reauthorization: Perspectives from Owners, Operators, and Users of the System
February 25, 2015
(Remarks as prepared for delivery)
Today a diverse panel of witnesses will explain to this Committee how important a modern surface transportation system is for a strong economy and why Congress must act quickly to address our nation’s infrastructure needs.
The continued inaction by Congress to enact a long-term transportation bill is a disgrace. An efficient transportation system is key to our economic security. The U.S. economy relies on an interconnected transportation system – for example, we move goods out of major ports of entry onto congested urban roads and out to the rural highways that span our nation.
Federal funding is crucial to keeping our roads, bridges, and transit systems functioning so that we can move goods and people safely and efficiently. Unfortunately, investment in our country’s infrastructure has not kept pace with growing needs at the state and metropolitan level.
Nationwide there are 63,500 bridges that are structurally deficient and 50 percent of our nation’s roads are in less than good condition.
The federal government provides over 50 percent of the capital expenditures for state highway projects nationwide, which means that states and local governments rely heavily on federal funding to maintain and improve their transportation systems.
A robust, multi-year surface transportation bill will sustain millions of jobs for American workers and help the construction industry, which was hit hard by the Great Recession. There are still approximately 1.4 million fewer construction workers today compared to 2006.
It is critical for our nation to continue investing in our aging infrastructure. The Highway Trust Fund is an integral part of how the federal government provides predictable, multi-year funding to states so they can plan and construct long-term highway, bridge, and transit projects. Therefore, preserving the Highway Trust Fund needs to be our number one priority.
We must move quickly to pass a bipartisan transportation bill, because without action we are facing a transportation funding shutdown in just a few short months. The law that currently authorizes our surface transportation programs is set to expire on May 31st – right as the critical summer construction season is beginning – and the Highway Trust Fund is projected to face cash flow problems shortly thereafter.
Secretary Foxx recently stated that U.S. DOT would likely begin warning states in June of “cash management” procedures which would take effect in July, when fund balances fall below a prudent balance. Make no mistake – this would result in the rationing of billions of dollars in payments to states.
I’d like to enter into the record a recent statement from Pete Ruane, the President and CEO of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, and read a portion of the statement:
“In just 100 days, authorization for the federal highway and transit program will end, absent action by the Congress. Close observers know, however, that the Senate and House are only scheduled to be in session 55 and 36 days, respectively, before that legislative deadline occurs. Where is the sense of urgency? The uncertainty caused by congressional action is already—again—having real world, negative economic consequences as states begin cutting back work plans because they don’t know if the funding will be there to pay the bills several months from now.”
Transportation should be a nonpartisan issue. Taking action to save the Highway Trust Fund and invest in our aging infrastructure is strongly supported by businesses, labor, and transportation organizations.
Last May, the EPW Committee unanimously approved a six-year reauthorization of MAP-21 that provided long-term funding certainty for highway and bridge programs. I am hopeful we will have similar success in our Committee this year, but the clock is ticking. Failure is not an option, there are no excuses for further delay or extensions, and I look forward to working with all of you to get the job done.