Mr. Chairman, I want to join you in welcoming Secretary Mineta and our other witnesses to today's hearing on the reauthorization of TEA-21.
I am pleased to have a chance to discuss the Bush Administration's TEA-21 proposal and get the input of transit operators, employees, and riders.
This hearing is proof that transit is a mainstream issue because transit is the fastest growing mode of transportation, and, in no small measure, transit is now vital to cities like Denver, Salt Lake, Dallas, Atlanta, Miami, and Charlotte that previously never cared about buses or light rail.
While I have some strong disagreements with the SAFETEA proposal put forth by the Administration, I want to thank the Secretary for his leadership in preserving the four-to-one balance between highways and transit, maintaining transit's share of the federal gas tax and preserving the flexibility of TEA-21. Indeed, this bill continues his longstanding support for a balanced, national, intermodal transportation policy.
However, I continue to have three major concerns with the Administration's bill: (1) the failure to provide new resources for transit, and even highway improvements for that matter, (2) the failure of SAFETEA to guarantee transit funding, and (3) the failure of SAFETEA to offer specific funding for transit security needs. On this last point I am particularly concerned that OMB chose to ignore these needs, particularly in light of the Sarbanes-Reed GAO report which found that just 8 transit properties estimated they needed $700 million to protect themselves from terrorism. I recognize the White House's view that terrorism is the Department of Homeland Security's job, but the provision of $65 million to the nation's top 20 transit properties, while welcome, is insufficient and must be addressed if we are truly to call the reauthorization of TEA-21 "SAFETEA".
It is my hope that working with Chairman Shelby, Senators Sarbanes and Allard we will be able to craft a bipartisan bill that recognizes that TEA-21 works as long as there are sufficient resources available to meet the nation's growing needs. However, the clock is running, and I am concerned that the OMB's decision to severely limit needed investments in our transit and highway systems as well as the Administration's delay in getting its bill to the Congress makes the job of enacting a reauthorization bill less, rather than more, likely.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.