Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this first in a series of hearings on reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century – TEA-21, and I’d like to join you in welcoming Secretary Mineta and our witnesses. As a member of the Banking Committee as well as the Environment and Public Works Committee, I look forward to being an active participant in drafting a bill that helps fund our mass transit and highway needs.
Mr. Chairman, as the committee looks at ways to build up our nation’s mass transit infrastructure, I would like to point out that nowhere is the demand and in fact need for more mass transit more evident than in my state of New Jersey, the most densely populated state in the nation. A study done by the New Jersey Institute of Technology in July of 2001 found that the average New Jersey driver spends almost 50 hours a year stuck in traffic. For all this time stuck in traffic, that’s an average cost per driver of $1255 in wasted gasoline and lost productivity – for a total cost of $7.3 billion a year.
And as a 25-year commuter to New York City from northern New Jersey, I can personally testify to the frustrations of the gridlock on our roadways and overcrowding of our mass transportation systems.
Mr. Chairman, to New Jersey’s credit, we realize that we cannot build enough roads to meet our transportation needs. As a result, we’ve invested heavily in creating mass transit opportunities to get drivers off the road. Rail lines such as the Hudson-Bergen and Newark-Elizabeth Light Rail lines are being built to alleviate traffic congestion as well as help revitalize New Jersey’s urban areas. I will fight to secure sufficient federal funding for these projects in the next TEA-21 legislation.
But our transit needs have also changed dramatically since September 11. Although New Jersey did not suffer direct physical damage on that terrible day, our transit infrastructure has been dramatically scarred. One of the three rail tunnels NJ commuters relied on to get into New York City, the PATH tunnel into the World Trade Center, has been closed and will not open for at least eighteen months. Prior to September 11th, approximately 66,000 commuters from New Jersey traveled to work each day via that tunnel, and must find another way to get to work. In addition, thousands of workers are now "reverse commuting" into New Jersey.
The closure of the PATH tunnel has put a strain on remaining rail lines that were already operating on a standing room only basis. If you are one of the commuters who manages to get on one of these standing room-only rail cars, you know how miserable the situation is. Mr. Chairman, these cars are so crowded that conductors cannot even move down them to collect tickets!
I have been working with my colleague from New Jersey, Senator Torricelli, to find money to provide some emergency help to fix this problem. I am proud that last year we secured $200 million in funding in the supplemental appropriations for emergency transportation and ferry assistance for New Jersey. But for the long-term, we have to create new mass-transit opportunities for New Jersey’s commuters. And at the head of this list has to be a new commuter rail tunnel into New York which has been studied and studied and studied.
Before September 11th, there was a great need for another rail tunnel into New York City. It was predicted that by 2003 demand would have overtaken supply on our existing rail system infrastructure. Since September 11th, that timetable has quickened as the pattern of transportation has dramatically shifted. In addition to the overcrowding I mentioned, we now have a need to reach the many jobs that have moved to midtown and Upper Manhattan from lower Manhattan.
Mr. Chairman, as the Banking Committee deals with this reauthorization, I will push for funding for a new trans-Hudson tunnel as additional funding for the Hudson-Bergen and Newark-Elizabeth rail options when the Banking Committee considers the next TEA-21 legislation.
Thank you for holding this hearing and I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.