WASHINGTON, D.C.—Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV issued the following prepared remarks at the opening meeting of the House-Senate Surface Transportation Reauthorization Conference:
“I am hopeful that this conference will lead to a bi-partisan compromise that ends with the bill being signed into law,” said Chairman Rockefeller. “We know that surface transportation programs play a critical role in all aspects of our lives, and everyone can agree about the need to improve the efficiency and capacity of our transportation system.
“Without a doubt, we need to rebuild and expand our roads, bridges, and transit systems to meet current and future safety needs.
“This bill will have a major impact on West Virginia jobs and its transportation network. The bill supports almost 17,000 West Virginia jobs – particularly in this tough economy, these are good jobs that are absolutely needed. And it will create the economic growth necessary to generate even more jobs.
“In the past few years, West Virginia’s manufacturing sector has grown to almost 49,000 jobs. Unfortunately, our transportation sector only supports about 25,000 jobs, but we can change that with this bill and bring it closer to the level it should be at. But there’s an equally important piece of this bill aimed at safety and I intend to fight very hard to preserve all its provisions.
“The Senate Commerce Committee – of which I am Chairman – plays the lead role in ensuring the safety of our surface transportation system.
“Far too many people continue to get injured or lose their lives every year. We can and must further improve the safety of our transportation system. More than 90 Americans die on the road every day – that’s unacceptable. This bill aims to reduce drunk driving, increase seatbelt use, and increase child safety.
“We took steps to reduce distracted driving, which kills 3,000 people a year. My state of West Virginia has played a leading role in addressing this issue and it’s time we address it on a national level.
“We took steps to remove defective auto parts from the supply chain and increase training and qualifications for commercial motor vehicle operators. We took steps to reduce driver fatigue and to bolster enforcement against bad actors in the motor carrier and motor coach industries. We took steps to increase the safety of hazardous materials transportation.
“The bottom line is that the Senate bill contains a range of smart safety improvements with wide bipartisan support here and outside this room. If we’re going to modernize the nation’s transportation infrastructure, we must also provide our safety agencies with the updated authorities to protect the citizens who use these systems.
“In closing, I want to urge everyone to focus on the issues at hand and not try to bring up extraneous issues that are certain to derail this process. Environmental riders are not relevant to this transportation bill and more importantly – pushing them in this venue may score political points but it won’t get us a bill.
“I’m determined to find common ground. If we put controversy aside, we can complete our work and get this bill done.”