March 25, 2009

Senator Gillibrand’s Opening Statement For Hearing On The Need For Transportation Investment

Washington, D.C. - New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, released the following opening statement for this morning's hearing on the Need for Transportation Investment: 

"Thank you Madam Chairman. I want to begin by thanking our witnesses for being with us today. In particular, I want to recognize our first witness Secretary LaHood. Secretary LaHood and I had the pleasure of meeting early last week, and I am so thankful for his leadership on the critical issues facing our nation's transportation system. I look forward to hearing from the Secretary as well as our other witnesses, Governor Rendell and Mayor Novak. Thank you all for being here.

"The state of our nation's infrastructure, as one leading advocacy organization has stated, "is poorly maintained, unable to meet current and future demands, and in some cases, unsafe." (American Society for Civil Engineers 2009 Report Card) Given the great economic challenges this nation faces, our core infrastructure needs should be seen as an opportunity to put Americans back to work, address the issue of global climate change, and invest in long-term economic development opportunities.

"For states like New York, the numbers illustrate the importance of our transportation infrastructure:

  • The New York City area is home to nearly one in every three Americans that use mass transit.

  • In terms of passenger rail, two-thirds of the nation's rail riders reside in New York

  • While 90% of Americans commute to work via automobile, nearly two-thirds of those who commute to the New York City from surrounding areas use mass transit.

"Reducing our dependence on fossil fuels through the development of alternative energy vehicles and encouraging the use of mass transit systems are critical to our nation's future.

"Investments in our mass transit systems are critical to prevent service cuts and further increases in transit fares, which will only further burden American families who rely on mass transit for their primary transportation needs.

"Congestion issues in our metropolitan areas have a significant impact on our economy and our ability to move goods. 

  • By the year 2020, traffic congestion could cost the City of Buffalo more than $150 million dollars annually.

  • For Rochester, $70 million, Albany, nearly $100 million dollars.

"At research centers like SUNY-Stony Brook's Center for Excellence in Wireless & Information Technology on Long Island, researchers are developing technology to better measure transportation infrastructure usage to aide city planners and emergency personnel. This type of innovation will save money and save lives.

"The challenge before us is finding the funding mechanisms that will meet America's growing infrastructure needs from maintaining our critical freight rail systems, developing the high speed passenger rail lines of the future, to ensuring the safety of our bridges and roads. 

"I look forward to working with my colleagues and with the counsel of individuals like the distinguished panel that we have before us today, to improve our nation's transportation and our ability to move people and goods across this nation."

Witnesses at today's hearing included U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell, and the President of the National League of Cities and Mayor of Northglenn, Colorado Kathleen M. Novak.