As a member of the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure, I’m privileged to represent you on the Subcommittee on Aviation, the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials; and the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management. My top priority on the committee is ensuring the safety of all the drivers, fliers, passengers and commuters of our nation’s transportation system, and on reducing congestion and delays both on the ground and in the air.
In reauthorizing our nation’s surface transportation programs, Ronald Reagan said: “common sense tells us it will cost a lot less to keep the system we have in good repair than to let it disintegrate and have to start over from scratch. Clearly this program is an investment in tomorrow that we must make today.”
After all, our transportation infrastructure connects us to our families, our communities and our commerce. It connects parents and children with jobs and school, it connects businesses and industries with suppliers and customers.
Congestion today costs us approximately 5 times what it did in the 1980s in terms of time and cost. It’s no surprise to anybody that our transportation infrastructure is increasingly mired in congestion and delays. With people’s commutes getting longer and longer, we all know that we must improve basic mobility. We also know that top-down planning hasn’t necessarily done our states, cities and towns much good. Pork barrel spending and a potentially insolvent highway trust fund are the legacies of too much concentration of funding and policy power in Washington.
In the transportation construction industry, unemployment is worse than the national average, and we need to get people back to work. Families supported by jobs in the transportation trades and construction industries are struggling and many companies face uphill battles to stay in business without the long-term certainty of projects in the pipeline.
There’s no single solution to this problem, however, there are several steps we can take to improve the system. Specifically, we must increase local control, improve regional planning, and incentivize partnerships between the private and public sectors to fund and manage these critical assets.
A well funded, long-term surface transportation bill is vital to improving the safety and efficiency of our infrastructure while reducing congestion and waste.
We’re competing in a global economy and we need to invest in a globally competitive infrastructure. Not only will it ensure our economy can compete, people will also see a direct impact on their pocket books by reducing gasoline consumption and time spent in the car. But dollars are scarce, so we need to make these investments wisely.
We must consolidate and streamline programs at the Department of Transportation and between agencies, and we must also allow performance metrics that reward projects for effectively meeting regional needs, which will result in a reduction of wasteful project spending and better prioritization.