Mr. President, first I would like to thank Senator Frist for giving us the opportunity to debate this important legislation. I would also like to thank Senator Reid for his leadership in getting us to where we are today on this bill. In addition, I would like to thank Chairman Inhofe, Senators Bond, and Baucus, as well as the other Chairmen and Ranking Members for all of their hard work and cooperation on this legislation. Mr. President, a little over a year ago, I stood before my colleagues, in the same place I am standing now, asking for their support of our nation’s surface transportation system. I am hopeful now, as I was then, that we will be able to work in a bipartisan fashion to pass this legislation quickly so our states can proceed with their critical work. Today we are in a similar situation as we were a year ago. Our bill maintains the important principles that were developed over the years of work in our Committees. We continue to grow and support the core programs that are the building block of a strong transportation system. We maintain flexibility for states, because they know best how to meet their needs. We also try to increase the funds going out to the states. This bill will enhance safety on our nation’s highways through education, better infrastructure, and enforcement. The increased intermodal flexibility set forth in the bill will allow states, if they wish, to improve freight handling and movement. The 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. This bill also reduces congestion on our nation’s roadways by enhancing public transportation and promoting inter-modal solutions to regional transportation problems. These are all critical components to a successful bill and I am glad that, through much hard work, we were able to develop strong national policy. It may not be exactly what any one member would have crafted on his or her own, but this is a strong and unified step in the right direction. There are, however, some key differences. A year ago, we presented you with a well-funded bill that struck a delicate balance between the core programs and flexibility on program and modal spending at the state and local level. This time our job was made more difficult by fiscal constraints insisted upon by the Administration. The White House has suggested an overall funding level for surface transportation of $284 billion over six years. This despite the President’s own Transportation Department saying we need at least $300 billion to simply maintain the status quo, and something well above that level to make progress on conditions and performance. Last year the Senate passed a highway bill at $318 billion with 76 votes. It is unfortunate that the President fails to see the value of a robust transportation program. It’s unfortunate the President fails to see the jobs that will be lost, and the roads and bridges that will go unrepaired and unbuilt. It’s unfortunate the President doesn’t see the lives that could be saved with better roads and the time that will be wasted sitting in traffic. All of this is the result of inadequate funding. While my colleagues and I have continued to impress upon him the value of increased funding, we continue to work within the box that the Administration has put us in. We tried to meet everyone’s needs while not neglecting our responsibilities to the Highway Trust Fund. This is a very difficult task given the restrictions this Administration has imposed on us. But we did what was asked of us. All of the Committees have acted and passed a bill at $284 billion. Make no mistake – we have made sacrifices that none of us wanted to make. I am hopeful we will increase the funding in this bill as we move it through the Senate in the coming days. That said, I stand here before you with the structure of a bill that has the potential to move our transportation system forward. Not the giant leap we had hoped to make but meager steps that I hope will be the first of many in helping us get where we need to go. Mr. President, I need not remind you that the authorization for this program expired 19 months ago. In that time, there have been nearly 70,000 traffic fatalities with an economic cost of over $370 billion. Americans continue to sit in traffic for close to 50 hours a year, 10 minutes more per hour traveled than when the last reauthorization bill was passed. 18 percent of our roads are in poor or mediocre condition. 29 percent of bridges are deficient or functionally obsolete. Over a quarter of our transit facilities are in below average condition. More than 3 million jobs are waiting to be created. While we neglect to act, transportation in this country continues to degrade. Things are getting worse, not better. We have lost one construction season and are on our way to missing another. In Northern states like Vermont, this isn’t a little problem. It’s a big one. We must act on this legislation now. We must pass a nationwide surface transportation reauthorization bill this year. I look forward to working with my colleagues to debate HR 3 on the Senate floor. I am hopeful we will be able to proceed to conference with the House soon so that we can all report back to our constituents on a job well done.