Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee.
It is an honor to have been nominated by President Bush to be the Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration and a privilege to appear before you this morning. If confirmed by the Senate, I very much look forward to working closely with Secretary Mineta and the Members of this Committee to ensure that America's transit systems serve the transportation needs of people across the nation.
As you may know, I had the privilege to have been nominated by President Reagan and confirmed by the Senate to serve as Associate Deputy Secretary of Transportation in 1985 under Secretary Dole. Combined with my tenure as a Special Assistant to the Secretary and as the first Director of the Department's Office of Commercial Space Transportation, I had the opportunity to spend five years at the Department of Transportation - years which reinforced my commitment to public service and to the vital importance of an effective transportation system in ensuring the vitality of communities everywhere. It is with great anticipation and enthusiasm that I hope to return as the Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration.
I also had the privilege to serve at the pleasure of President Bush with the consent of the Senate as the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Policy in 1989. From that vantage point, I developed an understanding of the importance of transit in providing access to jobs, as well as the importance of a ready and able workforce to build and operate our transit systems.
My leadership and management experience has not been limited to government. At the American Red Cross, I saw how people working together could solve seemingly insurmountable problems. As Senior Vice President of the American Red Cross, I managed a budget that reached $400 million and a workforce of over 400 people who helped mitigate the terrible effects of natural disasters and ensure the provision of a safe and adequate blood supply. When hurricane winds or earthquakes destroy or incapacitate vital transportation facilities and routes, the economic effects of such disasters are magnified and getting relief services to those affected is made even more difficult. It is in the midst of such disasters that one can fully appreciate the role that our nation's transportation services play each and every day in making our communities more livable, safe, and economically strong.
Mr. Chairman, I am an advocate for a federal transit assistance program which achieves some of our most important national transportation goals. If confirmed, I will make full use of the Federal Transit Administrator's office to work with communities and their leaders in four critical areas:
As you know, transit is not an end in itself It is a means by which we accomplish other goals, the principle one of which is providing mobility to people. Just as local needs and problems differ, so must the transit programs that are designed to meet those needs. It is self-evident, perhaps, to say that the needs of New York City are fundamentally different from the needs of Omaha, Nebraska. What has not always been so clear, however, is that we must have a federal program that is adaptable and responds to the needs of all.
In the largest metropolitan areas, where traffic congestion is a pressing concern, transit is central to the transportation system, serving every element of the community. In the Washington D.C. area, for example, the Metro system is now reporting 700,000 daily riders, making it difficult to imagine highway congestion levels without such a transit option. In other communities, transit serves primarily as a safety net, providing mobility to people with few other options - the poor, the elderly, and persons with disabilities. Our federal programs should respond to each of these situations, as well as to the many variations that exist between these two examples.
The federal role in transit began in the early 1960s, in response to urgent needs in many communities as private transit operations across the nation failed. The federal government partnered with local governments to maintain mass transit in the face of widespread insolvency among private transportation providers. Early in the program's history, the federal government focused on improving the physical infrastructure of transit and ensuring the financial viability of public transit systems.
During the past two decades, more and more local communities began to recognize that transit could and should play a larger role in the community transportation system. The federal program was critical in many regions that sought to better integrate transit into their plans for economic development and livable communities. More recently, there has been dramatic growth in the number of communities -- of many different sizes -- that recognize that transit can enhance the livability of the community, promoting and responding to economic growth and development. It can also serve as an important safety net for the 80 million Americans who do not drive because of age, disability, or income.
The Federal role in surface transportation has been in support of state and local government. The basic responsibility for making local decisions and meeting local transportation needs has and should rest with state and local government. The federal transit program, from the start, has played a supporting role in local transit programs. That fundamental principle should remain and be enhanced.
Mr. Chairman, should I be confirmed, I will gratefully dedicate my energy, experience, and commitment to the vital mission of the Federal Transit Administration. I am particularly mindful of the important discussions that will take place during the upcoming reauthorization of the surface transportation program. And I pledge to this Committee that I will vigorously pursue the mission of increasing transportation choices in local communities. I am eager to work with you, with the President, with Secretary Mineta, and with transportation colleagues throughout the country to continue to improve transit in America.
Mr. Chairman, thank you again for the opportunity to address the Committee. This concludes my testimony, and I would be pleased to answer any questions that you may have for me this morning.
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