AASHTO Journal, 15 February 2013
The federal government must play a key role in ensuring a safe, efficient, and reliable national transportation network, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Bill Shuster (R-PA) said during his first hearing as leader of the committee on Wednesday, an idea that was met with general agreement from most, if not all, speakers.
“Transportation is important,” Shuster said in his opening remarks at the hearing. “It’s about people and how they live their lives. It’s also about business. An efficient national transportation network lowers production costs and enhances productivity and profits. And it is about America. Our national transportation system binds us together. Working together in the 113th Congress, the committee will focus on strengthening America’s national transportation network to make us more efficient, more competitive, and more prosperous. This is an important responsibility of government—especially the federal government.”
Witnesses included Building America’s Future Co-Chair and former Governor of Pennsylvania Ed Rendell; U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue; and Laborers’ International Union of North America General President Terry O’Sullivan. Each witness highlighted the tie between a strong economy and a strong transportation system.
“The bottom line is that the U.S. cannot miss any opportunities to ignite economic growth, improve our global competitiveness, and create jobs,” Donohue said during the hearing. “Quality transportation infrastructure unleashes competitive advantage by leading to lower production costs making U.S. businesses more efficient, making the United States a desirable location for new and existing businesses, and also making U.S.-produced goods and services more competitive in the global economy.”
Committee Ranking Member Nick Rahall (D-WV) asked each witness two questions: “Do you all support a federal role in transportation as opposed to turning it all over to the states?” and “Do you agree that all funding options should be on the table?” All three witnesses answered “yes” to both question, though Donohue responded, “We like some funding options more than others, but yes.” Donohue specifically voiced his support for an increase in the gas tax.
“Without an overriding national vision and network, America’s transportation infrastructure would resemble a patchwork of disconnected roads and rails; our aviation system would be untenable; goods movement would be greatly hindered; and the electric grid would be a disconnected system in each of the 50 states,” Rendell said. In terms of funding, Rendell said the nation needs to build on TIGER grants and keep money aside for larger projects that states and projects can compete for.
Additional coverage of the hearing is available at Transportation TV.
A video of the full hearing, as well as the written testimony from all three witnesses, is available here.