Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Gramm, members of the Committee, thank you for allowing me to appear before you today to discuss the importance of transit in our nation's rural and urban areas. I am David Winstead, Chairman of the Transportation Coalition at the Maryland Chamber of Commerce. I appear before the Committee on behalf of the United States Chamber of Commerce, which is the world's largest business federation representing more than three million companies and organizations of every size, sector and region. My testimony will address the importance of a national, seamless transportation network that meets the mobility needs of moving people in urban and rural areas.
In Maryland, TEA-21 authorized $120 million for the Baltimore Central Light Rail Double Track Project. This is a vital project for the City of Baltimore and surrounding counties. Construction for the Light Rail project is underway and will be completed by Spring 2006.
And in Washington State, TEA-21 funds are being used for the Sound Transit's Central Link, a 24-mile light-rail system slated to open in 2006. The light-rail system will link Sea-Tac Airport to Seattle's University District via the city's business district. Central Link is a crucial element of a regional mass-transit system approved by voters, including express buses, commuter trains, HOV lanes, park-and-ride lots and transit centers throughout the central Puget Sound area.
Dallas also has benefited from TEA-21 investments. Carrying nearly 40,000 riders daily, the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) light-rail system has been one of the fastest growing in the nation. To meet current and projected demand, DART has begun building extensions to suburban Garland and Plano. The new lines, secured with a federal Full Funding Grant Agreement, will add 23 miles, more than doubling the existing system.
Across America, investment in public transportation is paying off. For each $1 billion in federal capital funds, 47,500 jobs are created and businesses experience a $3 billion gain in sales. Transportation accounts for approximately 17 percent of our Gross Domestic Product, and for American families transportation represents 18 percent of household spending, the second largest household expenditure after housing.
Without a strong TEA-21 program, we will feel the consequences of a sub par system- congestion, decreased productivity, more accidents and diminished quality of life. The cost of road congestion to the U.S. economy was nearly $78 billion in 1999-more than triple what it was 20 years ago! Funding Requirements Not Meeting Demand for Public Transportation
U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) data show that a minimum $50 billion per year federal investment to improve and maintain the current physical conditions to meet the demands of the nation's highways and bridges. DOT estimates that $20.6 billion in capital investment is needed annually just to maintain and improve current public transit services. Inflated to 2003 dollars, and using ridership estimates consistent with current experience, brings that number into the $30 billion range. Indeed, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) "Bottom Line" report indicates an annual transit need of $43.9 billion to improve the transportation system. We currently spend $7 billion a year. To meet these current challenges, we must invest our limited resources in a better, more efficient manner. We must look at innovative financing and public-private partnerships to supplement the federal user fee system.
Last summer the U.S. Chamber helped launch a new coalition called Americans for Transportation Mobility, or ATM. ATM is a broad-based organization of transportation users and providers, state and local organizations, and state and local government officials. The coalition has more than 350 organizations whose objective is simple: to build public and political support for a safer and more efficient transportation system. We hope to achieve our objective through a two-pronged approach: 1) Ensuring that Congress fully dedicates federal transportation trust fund revenues for their intended purpose, and 2) accelerate the project review process by removing redundancies. All the money in the world will not help if we are not efficient in the planning and approval for much-needed improvement projects.
For the first time, the business and labor communities have joined together in educating lawmakers on the importance of improved mobility and safety to future economic growth. Without meeting the mobility needs for the movement of people and goods, our nation will not achieve the economic success and quality of life it demands. The ATM coalition looks forward to working with this Committee in ensuring adequate investments are made over the next several years in our transportation network.
Over the past year, the U.S. Chamber's Transportation and Logistics Committee has formulated its TEA-21 reauthorization policy principles. A copy of our nine-point agenda is attached. The Chamber strongly advocates that TEA-21 reauthorization recognize the multi-modal nature of the nation's transportation network and strive to improve mobility and competitiveness within the network.
The Highway Trust Fund has a significant unobligated balance of $20 billion that that is not being spent for transportation projects. Our nation needs to spend all revenues collected into the Highway Trust Fund for surface transportation investment and look at public-private partnerships where feasible and equitable. The federal government collects user revenues into the Highway Trust Fund for transportation infrastructure maintenance and improvements. With our nation continuing its economic recovery, now is the time to utilize the unobligated balance to ensure the safety and security of our nation's transportation system as well as prevent the unnecessary loss of family wage jobs.
Furthermore, we need to find ways to accelerate project delivery once the decision is made to maintain and improve our transportation infrastructure. Due to the complicated permit review process; it takes an average of 10 years to complete the permit process for a new transit project. We want to see the permit process streamlined so that there will not be repeated delays in construction of our public transit system.
During reauthorization of TEA-21, we will advocate that all transportation fuel taxes should be placed to the Highway Trust Fund that was set up to pay for the maintenance and improvement of the system. The U.S. Chamber believes that ethanol should be taxed at the same rate as gasoline and that the 2.5 cents per gallon of the ethanol tax that is currently paid into the General Fund should be transferred to the Highway Trust Fund with an 80/20 split into the Mass Transit Account. That is why it is of critical importance to ensure the investment of all Highway Trust Fund revenues into much needed surface transportation programs.
The Chamber will continue to review various proposals that could provide additional resources to the surface transportation program. We must fully utilize all current funding mechanisms before looking at new funding options but the Chamber's overall priority is to have the federal government invest in a surface transportation system that meets the demands placed by both business and the public at large.
The Chamber also will continue to support the distribution of revenues collected into the Highway Trust Fund at eighty percent for highways and twenty percent for transit. We believe this is a fair and equitable way to distribute the Highway Trust Fund revenues and would oppose any change in this distribution.
We applaud the Senate Appropriations Committee that has recently approved a FY 2003 Transportation Appropriations bill that would fund transit at record levels. The Senate Appropriations Committee also fully restored a proposed $8.6 billion reduction to the federal highway program. Restoring the highway funding to the current FY 2002 level of $31.8 billion is important as many states chose to flex some program funds for transit programs. In fact, more than $1 billion in highway program funds has been flexed to transit programs in each of the last six years. We urge this Committee to support fully funding the public transit programs as well as restoring the federal highway program funding to $31.8 billion. A full restoration is critical to ensure continued strong growth in the surface transportation program and to serve as the baseline for TEA-21 reauthorization.
In closing, the U.S. Chamber will continue to advocate increased spending on transportation infrastructure and streamlining of environmental review process. We will play an active and aggressive part in advancing a transportation agenda that strengthens our national transportation system. We are living in a new world that requires new thinking and approaches to transportation that should be characterized by changed behaviors and measurable results. We will remind the public and Congress that infrastructure is not disposable - it is a strategic asset that must be renewed and protected.
The impact of doing nothing will be increased congestion, decreased safety on our roads, and setbacks in our ability to improve air quality. The U.S. Chamber and chambers throughout the nation look forward to working with Congress and the President to bring about continued, predictable investment in our nation's transportation system in TEA-21 reauthorization. Investment in our national transportation system will ensure we remain a leader in the global marketplace.
Thank you, and I am happy to answer your questions.
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