Statements and Speeches

WASHINGTON (March 11, 2010) – Today Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), a senior member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, participated in a full Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on the challenges facing our transportation system. The hearing, “Federal, State and Local Partnerships to Accelerate Transportation Benefits,examined federal, state and local partnerships that leverage federal transportation investments and explored the ways in which the benefits of those investments could be accelerated.

“Today too many Americans are wasting precious time, money, and energy because of shortcomings in our transportation system,” said Sen. Carper. “Every year each American wastes an entire work week of time and three weeks’ worth of gas while sitting in traffic. Clearly our existing transportation infrastructure is being asked to do too much with too few resources and in the coming years that problem is only going to get worse. I believe the solution to this growing crisis requires a two pronged approach. First, we must be smarter about spending existing funds by re-focusing investments around a set of national goals and linking funding to progress toward those goals. Second, we need to increase investments in transportation – particularly in mass transit and intercity passenger rail – to provide for increased mobility and reduce harmful air pollution. This hearing is an important step as we work to address these challenges to our transportation system.”
 
A copy of Senator Carper’s opening statement from the hearing follows:
 
Chairman Boxer, thank you for holding this hearing.
 
I am glad we are discussing the role of federal, state, and local partnerships in financing transportation projects. These partnerships are a possible solution to some of the transportation policy challenges that we need to address in the next transportation bill. The problem is clear: The United States’ transportation system is beginning to show its age and congestion is having a debilitating effect.
 
According to the Texas Transportation Institute, traffic congestion causes 4.2 billion hours of wasted time and 2.8 billion gallons of wasted fuel each year. That means that every one of us wastes an entire work week of time and three weeks’ worth of gas while sitting in traffic. Imagine the economic and environmental progress that could be accomplished by relieving congestion!
 
The Department of Transportation estimates that all levels of government must spend $30 billion more per year to maintain our existing roads, bridges, and transit systems. Many of you know that I ride the train from Wilmington every morning. On the Northeast Corridor alone, $9 billion is needed to return the rail infrastructure to a state of good repair. When you factor in capacity enhancements to accommodate the projected 60 percent increase in passengers on the Northeast Corridor by 2030, that number jumps to $43 billion.
 
It is clear that additional transportation revenues will be necessary to maintain and improve our infrastructure. To that end, I will be a leading proponent of raising and indexing the gas tax when the Senate takes up a surface transportation bill. However along with the conversation about new revenues, we need to discuss the effectiveness of existing programs.
 
I believe we can be smarter about spending money if we re-focus transportation policy around a set of national goals, such as economic development, greenhouse gas reduction, congestion relief and safety. I understand the importance of formula programs that provide certainty for states. However, these federal funds must provide measurable improvements towards national transportation goals. States that make improvements towards these goals should be rewarded with additional funds and states that regress should be penalized.
 
This may be a hard pill to swallow but, I believe it is an essential component of a reformed transportation system. I look forward to working with Chairman Boxer on that and many other issues as we put together a transportation bill.