Good morning. I am pleased to participate in today's hearing regarding reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century – TEA 21. The theme of today's hearing – Transit in the 21st Century: Successes and Challenges – is befitting. It is an indication of the problems we face regarding congestion, air quality, mobility for our citizens, and limited funding, but also the promises of public/private partnerships, creative financing, job creation, efficiently getting people where they need to go, and the mitigation of problems associated with nonattainment areas.
Because of the budget mechanisms inherent in TEA-21, the federal transit program will receive this fiscal year a total of $6.74 billion from the mass transit account of the highway trust fund and from general revenues. The President's budget requests $7.2 billion for transit for the next fiscal year. That's a lot of peanuts and that's why this hearing is so important. TEA-21 expires September 30, 2003, so we must be about the people's business now to reauthorize this important legislation by next year.
I represent a state with large metropolitan areas and rural communities, cities bustling with businesses and nonattainment areas facing air quality concerns. Throughout the coming months we will need to discuss guaranteed funding and flexibility in how to expend those funds. With the increased security concerns, we will need to discuss safety of our transit systems. We must continue to explore also the promise of partnering with private entities and localities to continue to get more bang for our bucks.
Our transit systems have enhanced our air quality, relieved areas of debilitating congestion, and increased mobility to those who, because of income, age, or disability, don't have access to automobiles to get to the doctor, go to the grocery store, or get to work. We also see the positive ripple effects of job creation in sectors of the economy that support our transit systems.
Throughout my tenure in public office I have seen the changes in my state and in this country from the 1960's, when private transit operations were financially distressed and local public agencies were created to take over those important operations; to the 1964 Urban Mass Transportation Act for capital expenditures; to the 1974 National Mass Transportation Act for operating assistance; to today where we have effective public/private partnerships, flexibility in guaranteed funding, and holistic, intermodal approaches to transportation planning.
Whether we are dealing with the Capital Beltway around Washington, D.C. or the bypass around Atlanta, we are familiar with the delays and the fumes. It is even estimated that Americans in our urban areas spend billions of hours in one year stuck in traffic amounting to $78 – $100 billion in lost time and wasted fuel. Additionally many of these areas throughout the country are nonattainment areas. Our transit systems play an integral role in mitigating congestion, improving air quality, and getting people where they need to go.
I am encouraged by the successes of public transportation and the mechanisms included in the landmark TEA-21 legislation. I am looking forward to addressing the upcoming issues regarding reauthorization and reconciling our budgetary concerns with the need for a vibrant partnership between the federal government, state and local entities, and private businesses. I welcome Secretary Mineta and look forward to the testimony of all of today's witnesses.