Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this third hearing on reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century – TEA-21, and I’d like to join you in welcoming our witnesses.
Mr. Chairman, as the Banking Committee continues its work on the reauthorization of TEA-21, I look forward to working with you and the members of the committee to craft legislation that does its best to help our nation’s transit systems. As someone who represents a state with the third largest transit system in the country, I realize we need to provide as much funding as possible to assist these systems to meet the needs of their riders.
In fact, nowhere in the country is the need for 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 spent 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.
To New Jersey’s credit, we have realized that we cannot build enough roads to meet our transportation needs. We need to craft TEA-21 reauthorization legislation that operates under that premise as well. This legislation should not only continue the commitment we made under TEA-21 to help fund existing mass transit projects but also help state and local transit agencies create new opportunities for commuters, whether they are bus, rail or ferry. Transit systems need more funding, not less, to meet the needs from their increasing levels of ridership.
Mr. Chairman, I look forward to working with you to develop legislation that continues to provide state, city and local transit agencies with a stable guaranteed source of funding. I will also try to see that that level is funding is increased. Finally, I will also work to continue innovative financing methods, like the transfer program that allows some highway funds to be transfer for mass transit uses.
Thank you for holding this hearing and I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.