The Committee will review the President’s proposed Department of Transportation budget for the 2009 fiscal year.
* The Honorable Robert Sturgell, Acting Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration will accompany Secretary Peters.
* Video coverage provided by C-SPAN.
Daniel K. InouyeSenatorTransportation is an essential element of our nation’s prosperity. Our transportation infrastructure provides the means to efficiently move goods and people across our country, from New York to Hawaii, and around the globe. More than simply facilitating all aspects of our economy, our transportation resources provide a freedom of mobility that defines our national character.While the U.S. transportation system is world class in many respects, it is an aging system that has reached, and in some cases clearly exceeded, the limits of its capacity. The tragic collapse of the Minneapolis highway bridge last summer highlights our nation’s growing infrastructure problems.Much of America’s transportation infrastructure, highways, bridges, railroad, and ports, were built at the beginning or middle of the last century, and have outlived their safe and productive lives. Numerous airports and our national airspace system are approaching or have reached full capacity.Congestion continues to grow on our highways and our railways, at our ports, and within our aviation system. The truth of the matter is that without strong action, we face a future of ever-expanding gridlock. Our nation’s transportation capacity must be expanded throughout all modes or our economy, our citizen’s personal mobility, and our ability to compete in today’s global marketplace, will suffer drastically.For more than 50 years, we have been reaping the benefits of bold transportation investments made by our predecessors in government and industry. The time has come for today’s leaders to make a similar commitment to the future prosperity of our nation. We must unite around expanding and improving our highway, aviation, rail, and port infrastructure. We must work together to improve the safety and satisfaction of the traveling public. Finally, we must manage each of these modes of transportation as part of a complete system that is dedicated to serving the needs of the nation, and not the desires of individual companies.I am confident that the Department of Transportation (DOT) can meet these challenges, if given the proper resources and direction from the President. The United States has always been a world leader in transportation, but I must say that I have mixed feelings about our ability to aggressively address the nation’s transportation needs after reviewing the Administration’s fiscal year (FY) 2009 DOT budget proposal.On a positive note, the Bush Administration has proposed funding levels for the pipeline and motor carrier safety programs consistent with authorized levels, as well as a significant increase in funding to modernize the air traffic control system.On the other hand, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration only received a small increase in its operations budget, which unfortunately does not take into account the resources necessary to implement the new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program. Even more troubling is the fact that the White House continues to propose deep cuts in funding for Amtrak and airport infrastructure programs that Congress has consistently funded at higher levels.Any DOT budget proposal that moves through this Congress must provide sufficient funding to rehabilitate existing infrastructure, expand the system to accommodate growing use, and maintain the highest level of safety possible.I assure you that the Commerce Committee will be tracking the DOT’s performance closely in this final year of the Administration, and I look forward to working with you to ensure that DOT policy continues to focus on meeting these goals.
Frank R. LautenbergSenatorIn his State of the Union address, President Bush said we have ‘answered the call’ on the issues we face.But this budget proposal does not answer the call when it comes to our transportation infrastructure.And the failure to fund these needs here at home threatens our safety—and the strength and future of our economy.Last year, we saw a bridge collapse in Minnesota. Many other bridges and roads are in disrepair, and it will cost billions to improve them.But less than one year after the collapse in Minneapolis, President Bush wants to cut funding for highway and bridge repair by almost $2 billion.He also wants to fund transit programs at $200 million below the level that Congress authorized.These cuts hurt states like New Jersey that need transit funding the most, and working families who depend on this transportation.Traffic jams on our roads costs our country nearly $80 billion a year—twice the federal budget for highways.Our commuters cannot afford to sit in traffic when gas prices are well over $3 per gallon, and our environment cannot afford the greenhouse gas emissions from these idling cars.Airline travelers fare no better under this budget.The Bush Administration’s failures on aviation have led to one of the worst years ever for flight delays. More than one in four flights was late.Our air traffic control system remains dangerously understaffed and air traffic controllers overworked and fatigued.And there is a lack of leadership in preventing runway incidents.One billion airline passengers will be flying each year by 2015.Now is no time to be cutting funding for our nation’s airports and runways by $765 million.Lastly, President Bush once again proposes to bankrupt Amtrak—our nation’s passenger rail system.In a time of record high gas prices and record airport delays, travelers are using Amtrak trains in record numbers.But President Bush would take away this popular, energy-efficient and convenient travel option.Last October, the Senate passed my legislation with former Senator Trent Lott to provide $11.4 billion for Amtrak to expand passenger rail in the U.S.And I am working with my House colleagues to get it taken up and passed into law this year. It is time that America had a world-class passenger rail system.Mr. Chairman, if we want to support our economy and reduce our reliance on foreign oil, we must invest in our transportation infrastructure now.I look forward to working with my colleagues to answer our nation’s call with adequate transportation investment.
Witness Panel 1
The Honorable Mary E. PetersSecretary of TransportationU.S. Department of Transportation
Mr. Robert SturgellDeputy AdministratorFederal Aviation Administration