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LUNCHEON SESSION Transportation Challenges to the Nation James Jeffords, U.S. Senator, Vermont T ransportation gave rise to the host city, as to so tee, and the Transportation Subcommittee, under the able many of our central places in the United States. leadership of Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, held 11 pub- Chicago is also the birthplace of the modern city lic hearings and sponsored three roundtable discussions to planning movement, a school of thought that is central prepare for renewal of the nation's surface transportation to our national transportation policies. So it is fitting program. We heard from more than 100 witnesses from that we meet here to consider the future of the national 30 states representing more than 60 organizations. The transportation program. process generated a hearing record exceeding 1,000 pages. I have traveled extensively over the past few months, In the course of these hearings, I heard a lot about the lending my voice to the electoral campaigns under way technical fine points of our program. And these are throughout the nation. As you know, I made a signifi- important matters. But I am most concerned by out- cant personal decision last year to ensure that the per- comes. As we renew this program, I want to stay focused spective of our government was in balance as we on results--on a strong economy, on a clean environment, confronted so many vexing problems. If anything, the and on healthy communities. I want to make a difference need for balance has increased in the ensuing months. for families by generating jobs, improving mobility, and It is clear from my travels that our economy is in trou- enhancing safety. I want to invest in people and their cities ble. Business investment is down. Unemployment is on and towns. I want a strong America. So I would say to the rise. Unemployment in September 2002 stood at 8.1 you in this conference and to us all during reauthoriza- million Americans, and this does not count those who tion as we fine-tune the policy details, let's keep our eye have given up hunting for work. That is 1 million more on the ball. unemployed than a year ago. We know that investment That being said, and on the basis of what I have seen in transportation creates jobs and fuels business. and heard over the past year, let me set out a blueprint In the course of my travels, I have sought out local for a renewed transportation program. The next bill examples of the transportation challenges that confront the must be built on a solid foundation. The bill's many nation. I have seen Mississippi River barge traffic, West components should be grounded on two fundamental Coast ports, Louisiana Gulf Coast highways, Northern and considerations: Southern border facilities. I have traveled the Northeast corridor, been moved by the damage at Ground Zero, and First, it must strive for enhanced safety and security. gone home to Vermont, where historic villages struggle to We must reduce fatalities and increase vigilance. accommodate ever-growing trucks and truck traffic. The second fundamental is the environment. In My observations on the road were reinforced by the both the natural and built environment, our trans- hearing process that the Environment and Public Works portation investments should make things better, not Committee (EPW) has conducted this year. The commit- merely avoid making them worse. 16

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T R A N S P O RTAT I O N C H A L L E N G E S T O T H E N AT I O N 17 Once grounded on this foundation, the next bill investment assets, yet today there is virtually no U.S. should feature four pillars: transportation project in their portfolios." Jayetta Hecker of the General Accounting Office Asset management is the first pillar. We must told us that there are limitations in federal and state maintain and preserve our infrastructure investment. law. There are "state laws that restrict publicprivate We cannot allow highways and bridges to deteriorate. partnerships" and "federal tax policies on private activ- Access and mobility is the second pillar. Most ity bonds" that limit use of finance in transportation. Americans now live in metropolitan areas, and most She went on to say, "These financing tools are metropolitan areas are congested and worsening. We absolutely the most critical part of reauthorization." need to focus on this problem. So the will is there, the resources are there, but we The third pillar is freight and trade. The value and face certain impediments. tonnage of goods moved in this country is enormous Jeff Carey of Merrill Lynch talked about new invest- and growing. We need new facilities to accommodate ment vehicles that might make infrastructure invest- this growth. ment more attractive. And Los Angeles Commissioner And the fourth pillar is rail. To meet our national Janice Hahn agreed that a reliable revenue stream is the freight and passenger demands, we need a modern key to the success of the Alameda Corridor. national rail system, comparable to our highway and My request to you, then, is to help me realize a vision aviation systems. for transportation finance. Every responsible fund man- ager, both here and globally, will have a fraction of his or Capping the bill, and the overarching concern for her portfolio invested in U.S. transportation infrastruc- this conference, is finance. By some accounts, the ture. They will do so with confidence in the investment annual level of investment needed just to maintain our and in the bold nation that it will support. transportation system is nearly $110 billion per year. My senior transportation staff is here today and will Our current national program falls well short of that remain with you to listen for ideas that might help fulfill figure. this vision. Over the past fifty years, in our successful campaign to In closing, let me address more near-term financial develop the Eisenhower Interstate Highway system, we considerations. Today our federal government is oper- have used federal grants to states in a pay-as-you-go pro- ating month to month under a continuing resolution gram to build our national system. Today that system is (CR). We do not have a transportation appropriation essentially complete. law for Fiscal Year 2003. This lack creates doubt about We are in the post-Interstate era. Our federal aid pro- the program and uncertainty for the states and private gram is now focused, appropriately, on maintaining, contractors. The CR limits spending for the year to operating, and enhancing the highway asset that we have $27.7 billion. I want to see that increased to $31.8 bil- built. But this federalstate partnership is now being lion, and I want to see an appropriations bill passed to overwhelmed just by its asset management responsibility. make that fix permanent. Unless we adapt, I foresee a continuing deterioration Every billion dollars that we spend on roadwork leads of our transportation system. We are a nation with to jobs for 42,000 Americans and helps millions more unlimited potential and boundless possibility. That Americans commute safely to and from work every day. spirit has propelled a range of unparalleled achieve- More transportation funding means that states will let ments. Our renewal of America's transportation pro- contracts and contractors will hire more workers. When gram must reflect this national heritage in meeting the Congress returns after the elections, it must do something needs of the next generation. to stimulate the economy and create jobs. The American This conference comes at a perfect time to generate people demand it, and this proposal will deliver it. ideas for closing our financial gap. And the talent On October 18, 2002, the day that Congress recessed, assembled here today is the perfect mix. I signed a letter urging the president to include even One of our EPW hearings was on the topic of higher funding levels for highways, transit, and rail in his finance. A number of the witnesses at the hearing are in Fiscal Year 2004 budget. Joining me by signing that let- attendance today. Let me share a few points that they ter were Senators Reid, Fritz Hollings, and John Breaux made at our hearing: of the Commerce Committee and Chairman Paul Phyllis Scheinberg of the U.S. Department of Sarbanes and Senator Jack Reed of the Banking Transportation told us that her department would seek Committee. They are the chairs of the Senate committees to "expand innovative finance programs to encourage and subcommittees with jurisdiction for transportation. I private-sector investment." hope to see this alliance collaborate throughout reautho- David Seltzer told us that "public, corporate and rization. My goal is a well-funded bill that promotes a union funds represent some $3.6 trillion dollars in balanced transportation system for the nation.