April 21, 2015

Shelby Opening Statement at Hearing on Surface Transportation Reauthorization

 WASHINGTON, DC – Tuesday, April 21, 2015 – U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, today delivered the following opening remarks during a full committee hearing on “Surface Transportation Reauthorization: Building on the Successes of MAP-21 to Deliver Safe, Efficient and Effective Public Transportation Services and Projects.”

The text of Chairman Shelby’s remarks, as prepared, is below.

“This is the first of our hearings on the reauthorization of MAP-21, which expires on May 31st.

“I believe that a long-term reauthorization bill is necessary to provide certainty and stability to cities and states across the country. More importantly, it is essential to Americans who rely on transportation for their livelihoods.
“However, the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund is the most significant hurdle we face in advancing a reauthorization bill.
"Today, the revenue coming into the Highway Trust Fund is $15 billion less than what is needed to sustain transportation spending at current authorization levels. This persistent revenue shortfall highlights the fact that our current transportation needs have outstripped the capacity of the trust fund.

“Any reauthorization proposal Congress considers must balance spending needs with long-term sustainability, flexibility, and innovation. Federal policies should encourage private sector investment in transportation and transit infrastructure in order to better leverage federal investments and increase economic growth.

“I have long advocated this approach and I am pleased that the Administration has launched the Build America Investment Initiative which seeks to expand the reach of existing financing tools and to promote the use of public-private partnerships. We cannot stop there, however.

“By eliminating burdensome regulations we will invite more innovation in the marketplace. By reforming the FTA’s internal administrative practices, project sponsors can achieve greater efficiencies.

“Projects that have a minimal federal investment and significant private investment should not be subjected to the same level of bureaucratic oversight as those with a significant federal investment. Experience tells us that large bureaucracies tend to delay projects and ultimately discourage infrastructure investment.

“In addition, federal policies should encourage a responsible and measured approach to transportation system management. This includes the funding of operations, preventive maintenance and, most importantly, fleet acquisition. ‘State of good repair’ must become an integral part of the public transportation dialogue and transit systems must take a ‘fix it first’ approach.

“We don’t need to look any further than Washington Metro for an example of what happens when an agency does not maintain its system in a state of good repair.

“Moreover, public transportation policy should support this effort and prioritize federal spending to maintain our aging public transportation infrastructure. Federal policy should not encourage more spending to expand systems that cannot maintain what they already have.

“The issues we are facing are difficult, but I believe that we can find middle ground.

“It is possible to produce a long-term, fiscally responsible reauthorization bill that can garner broad bipartisan support both in the Banking Committee and on the Senate floor. I look forward to working with the Administration and my colleagues on a reauthorization measure that provides the stability and certainty that our transportation systems need.”