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Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy For Users

Pursuant to House Resolution 144 and rule XVIII, the Chair declares the House in the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union for the further consideration of the bill,

Accordingly, the House resolved itself into the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union for the further consideration of the bill (H.R. 3) to authorize funds for Federal-aid highways, highway safety programs, and transit programs, and for other purposes, with Mr. Hefley (Acting Chairman) in the chair.

The Clerk read the title of the bill.

The Acting CHAIRMAN. When the Committee of the Whole rose earlier today, amendment No. 12 by the gentleman from Arizona (Mr. Flake) had been disposed of.

Pursuant to the order of the House of today, it is now in order to conduct a period of final debate on the bill.

The gentleman from Alaska (Mr. Young) and the gentleman from Minnesota (Mr. Oberstar) each will control 5 minutes. Does the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. DeFazio) claim the time?

Rep. Peter A. DeFazio

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Mr. Chairman, I claim the time on behalf of the gentleman from Minnesota (Mr. Oberstar) as the subcommittee ranking member.

The Acting CHAIRMAN. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Alaska (Mr. Young).

Rep. Don Young

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Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume, and I further yield to the gentleman from South Carolina (Mr. Spratt) for a colloquy.

Rep. John M. Spratt

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Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding.

The gentleman from South Carolina (Mr. Clyburn) and I had an amendment that we filed yesterday to forgive the debt owed by the Pee Dee Regional Transit Authority to the Federal Transit Administration. We are not going to bring this amendment up for a vote, but I would like to engage my colleague, the gentleman from Alaska (Chairman Young) in particular, in a colloquy on this issue if agreeable.

Mr. Chairman, the Pee Dee Regional Transit Authority, PDRTA, is responsible for transportation and transit services in an area which encompasses 20 percent of South Carolina, more than 5,300 square miles in some of the most poorest, most rural areas of our State.

In the year 2000, the Federal Transit Administration's triennial review found that PDTRA had incorrectly used revenues from contract services as local match for operating assistance grants. The PDRTA finance director at that time determined that PDRTA owed an amount of $895,083 to the FTA, although this number has not been verified by audit by the FTA.

PDTRA has completely replaced their management, reformed their business practices, and begun quarterly payments on the debt of around $20,500. With an overall budget of $3.5 million, these quarterly payments have crippled their ability to expand services and to improve access to jobs and medical facilities in this underserved region.

For this reason, the regional administrator of the FTA expressed in a January 31, 2001, e-mail to me that he supports PDTRA's efforts to obtain debt forgiveness. The gentleman from South Carolina (Mr. Clyburn) and I both support the regional PDTRA administrator's position in favor of debt forgiveness. I am just asking the chairman and ranking member for help in trying to resolve this matter in conference.

Rep. Don Young

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Mr. Chairman, reclaiming my time, the regional transit authorities are important to transportation in rural areas. I would be happy to discuss this matter further with the gentleman from South Carolina (Mr. Clyburn) and the gentleman to determine whether we can help with the problems in South Carolina.

Rep. Peter A. DeFazio

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Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?

Rep. Don Young

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I yield to the gentleman from Oregon.

Rep. Peter A. DeFazio

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Mr. Chairman, like the gentleman from Alaska (Chairman Young), the gentleman from Minnesota (Mr. Oberstar) and I believe strongly in the importance of regional transit authorities and will work with the gentlemen from South Carolina (Mr. Clyburn) and (Mr. Spratt) to find an agreeable solution to this issue in conference.

Rep. John M. Spratt

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Mr. Chairman, if the gentleman would further yield, I thank both gentlemen and look forward to working on this issue as the conference committee begins its deliberations. I thank the gentleman very much for this opportunity.

Rep. Don Young

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Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

Rep. Peter A. DeFazio

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Mr. Chairman, I yield myself 2 minutes.

Again, I want to thank the chairman of the full committee, chairman of the subcommittee, ranking member, the gentleman from Minnesota (Mr. Oberstar), the staff members, the leadership in the House, everyone who has contributed to what I think is an extraordinary product in this bill.

This bill is going to make vital investment in the crumbling infrastructure of the country to refurbish it, maintain it, improve it. It is going to anticipate growth needs and congestion. It is going to contribute to the growth of our economy. It is going to put tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people to work, and we do all this without borrowing any money, creating anymore deficit or debt. That is the most extraordinary thing about this bill and the most notable achievement.

We, unlike many other Federal programs, have an investment that is totally paid for by the taxpayers and will be of tremendous benefit to those same taxpayers. The money will be spent in the manner in which it was intended when it was collected from individuals and from commercial drivers at the pump, and this will be, I believe, the signature domestic legislation of this Congress in terms of the positive impact on the economy of our country.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

Rep. Don Young

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Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I echo the words of my good friend, the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. DeFazio) and, of course, the gentleman from Minnesota (Mr. Oberstar), the ranking member.

I would also like to not only thank my staff but everybody who has dealt with me for the past 4 years on this legislation. This is a very frustrating position to be in when the cash flow is not really what we wanted it to be and yet trying to achieve what is necessary for this country, and that is a good infrastructure system.

I am convinced that we will be revisiting this issue when this bill is on the President's desk in the years coming because we have a real challenge in this great Nation of ours. We have heard it time and again about how people are delayed and how product is delayed and how our bridges are crumbling, our roads are crumbling. These are not myths. These are actual facts. It was testified before us that we actually need probably $500 billion to make sure this country keeps moving, to be competitive with that competitive China.

So this is just a small step forward, and I will agree with my friend from Oregon; I do believe this will be the premier domestic legislation that we will pass that will affect more lives immediately than any other piece of legislation we will have before this body in the next 14 months.

I am proud of the fact that we have been able to do this in a bipartisan fashion. I am proud of the fact that we have been able to, in fact, craft this bill, and there has been lots of cooks in this kitchen, but we have managed to bring everybody together, and I think come out with a very, not think, I know, a very good product in TEA-LU.

Now, we are going to go to the Senate after I hope everybody votes for this legislation. We will go to the Senate. God willing, they will move something, and we will have this bill done before the first of June.

And for that I thank each Member of this House, for participating in the process and showing the public how this House can work together to produce a product for the benefit of this Nation.

Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.

Rep. Peter A. DeFazio

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Mr. Chairman, I yield the balance of my time to the gentleman from Minnesota (Mr. Oberstar), the ranking member.

Rep. James L. Oberstar

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Mr. Chairman, the gentleman from Alaska (Mr. Young), our chairman, expressed it very well. We are on the brink of a new era in transportation, with a substantially increased investment in transportation. It is and will be, as the title of this bill describes, transportation equity and a legacy for users, a legacy of a substantially increased investment in surface transportation; highways, bridges, and safety, over $6 billion, over the next years of this legislation.

There is substantial investment in transit, the fastest growing segment of transportation over the last 5 years, adding 1 million new riders a day in transit systems. New innovations, truck lanes that the chairman has strongly advocated will be part of this legislation; increased funding for ferry service, to take more pressure off our roads. The environmental provisions of this provision are far-reaching, forward-looking, and visionary. We have a good beginning on this legacy for users of our transportation system, properly named.

In coming to this point, I, of course, want to thank our chairman, as I have done at the outset, for his leadership and standing firmly for the $375 billion we truly ought to be investing in transportation, but with the opener we have the opportunity to come back and do this again. And also thank you to the chairman of the subcommittee, the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Petri), and my very good friend and partner, the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. DeFazio), who is our ranking member on the Subcommittee on Highways, Transit & Pipelines.

Also our committee staff on both sides have worked tirelessly and selflessly toward this objective: Dave Heymsfeld, Ward McCarragher, Kathie Zern, Dara Schlieker, and Jen Walsh.

Ken House, Art Chan, Stephanie Manning, and Eric Van Schyndle, who spent an enormous amount of time on the Member high-priority projects. Beth Goldstein, and from the staff of the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. DeFazio) Kathie Dedrick.

We have also had unsung heroes and heroines: our unpaid interns Lauren Reed and Homer Carlisle.

The Legislative Counsel's office: Dave Mendelsohn, who I have known for years and who is a fount of knowledge on the crafting of the right legislative language; Curt Haensel and Rosemary Gallagher.

And Susan Binder and Ross Chrichton from the Federal Highway Administration.

That old African adage that it takes a village to raise a family, well, it really took a village of staff, of Members, of support, of participation by the leadership to produce this child, this Transportation Equity Act, this Legacy For Users. Let us move forward to make this the Transportation Century.

Rep. J. Dennis Hastert

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Mr. Chairman, I rise today in support of H.R. 3.

I'm glad this day has finally come. This is one of the most important bills this Congress can pass.

I designated this Highway and Transit Reauthorization as H.R. 3 because of its importance as the economic growth and jobs bill for this legislative year.

It's estimated for every $1 billion we spend on road construction, nearly 48,000 jobs are created.

But it's more than just jobs. We need an adequate infrastructure to move people and the materials they make efficiently.

With more than 67 percent of the Nation's freight moving on highways, economists believe that our ability to compete internationally is tied to the quality of our infrastructure.

In an era of just-in-time delivery and an increasingly global economy it is unacceptable that traffic congestion currently affects 33 percent of all travel on America's major roadways; leading to 3.6 billion hours of delay each year.

I congratulate Chairman Young and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for producing a bill that addresses this Nation's need for a transportation system suited to the 21st century's economy.

Further, Chairman Young and the Committee have written a fiscally responsible bill at a $283.9 billion funding level that fits within our budget and that the President can sign.

Given the demands of the infrastructure needs and the delicate balance that must be maintained among competing interests for highway and transit funds, this is no small accomplishment.

Today, the House of Representatives will prove that it is possible to pass a fiscally responsible Highway bill.

It is now up to the other body to quickly match our effort and get into conference so this legislation can be enacted into law before this year's construction season passes for States in the North.

The time is over for any further delay in reauthorizing these vital infrastructure programs.

For 2 years, uncertainty and delay over establishing multi-year funding levels has hampered our and the States' ability to plan for and build transportation systems.

In conclusion, I want to thank Chairman Young, Ranking Member Oberstar and the members of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for producing this legislation.

To quote our Majority Leader Tom DeLay--who was also instrumental in getting us to this point--it is time to ``get it done.''

Rep. Joseph Crowley

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Mr. Chairman, I rise today in strong support of this legislation.

I would like to commend the efforts of Chairman Young and Ranking Member Oberstar as well as Subcommittee Chairman Petri and Ranking Member DeFazio for their tireless efforts on crafting a strong bipartisan bill.

As we all know, this legislation has been a long time coming and I would like to extend my gratitude to these four men for the work they have done to produce such a strong bipartisan bill.

In today's current environment in the House, it is really a testament of how Chairman Young and Mr. Oberstar run the committee and put the needs of United States infrastructure before partisan issues.

This is one of the most important pieces of legislation for me because of the benefits it will provide to my district.

Without the leadership of Mr. Young, Oberstar, Petri, and DeFazio and the incredible staff they have on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee our Congressional Districts would still be waiting for the much needed funding to repair and improve of roadways.

I would like to thank you on behalf of my constituents for all the work you have done.

Rep. Jim Gerlach

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Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of H.R. 3 and commend Chairman Young and Ranking Member Oberstar for their hard work in bringing this bill to the floor. As a Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I am proud of the work of our committee and am hopeful that we can enact TEA-LU quickly to give out State departments of transportation the stability and resources they need to plan for, design and build important highway and transit projects.

I would also like to highlight a few issues that I look forward to working with the chairman and ranking member on as this bill moves forward.

First, I strongly support a provision that was included in S. 1072, the Senate's version of the reauthorization in the 108th Congress. This provision, section 1620 of S. 1072, would provide a 2 percent set aside of funds to be used to address stormwater mitigation. If included in H.R. 3, the provision would bring over $29 million back to Pennsylvania to help address some of the major stormwater runoff problems. Stormwater runoff is a significant source of water pollution, untreated sewage overflows, beach closings and flooding. I believe addressing this need with specific funding in the bill to correct runoff problems associated with existing highways is good policy. Many of the communities in my own district have to deal with the impacts of runoff from highways and roads, yet have no funding to do so. This provision would correct this problem and give local communities access to much-needed funding for stormwater mitigation.

Second, I have worked with my colleagues on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee from Pennsylvania to address a problem that has recently come to our attention regarding ``flexing'' of Federal highway dollars to shore up the operating budgets of Pennsylvania's transit agencies. I hope that the chairman will continue to work with us to see that our concerns are taken into account. While I certainly understand the ongoing crisis confronting SEPTA and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's other transit agencies, and hence believe the flexing of Federal highway dollars may provide an appropriate, short-term answer to the agency's budgetary problems, I likewise believe that any agreed-to flexing plan should be contingent upon an agreed-to repayment of these much-needed dollars within a short and fixed time period. These highway dollars are absolutely critical to the continued improvement of our region's road infrastructure. While the Pennsylvania Legislature and Governor Rendell continue to work toward a permanent solution to mass transit funding, the need to provide transit agencies with a ``hand up'' with these dollars may be appropriate. But that assistance should only be provided if the Commonwealth agrees to return these dollars to the effected MPOs within a specified time period to ensure the use of these dollars for the initial purposes for which the appropriations were made by the Federal Government. Further, I would like to see a plan in place to assure that the projects delayed by the flexing action are fast-tracked once the flexed dollars are returned.

Mr. Chairman, providing flexibility to our metropolitan planning organizations is a laudable goal, but these Federal dollars were never intended to plug holes in the operating budgets of transit agencies, I therefore ask the chairman and members of the committee to work with us to achieve an acceptable solution.

Finally, in the section 307 of the National Highway System Designation Act of 1995, there was included a provision that prohibited states from imposing arbitrary overhead rate caps. Section 307 did have its desired effect, most States are following common overhead and auditing procedures that promote quality design work. The problem is that section 307 provided states a window of opportunity to opt out of the Federal Highway Administration FHWA, overhead and auditing procedures by adopting State laws establishing alternative procedures. Thirteen States have taken advantage of this opt out and passed law to impose arbitrary overhead rate caps.

As a result, Congress cannot be assured that the most qualified firms are being selected for working on Federal-aid design projects. At the same time, many of these States require their own audits with their own procedures, instead of accepting the uniform audit procedures used by most of their peers. This places unnecessary burdens on engineering firms and diverts time, staff and focus away from the technical aspect of the project.

Section 1703 of S. 1072, the Senate version of the highway reauthorization in the 108th Congress, included a permanent fix for this problem and I hope that the provision finds its way into the final bill.

Again, I would like to commend Chairman Young and Ranking Member Oberstar for their commitment to our Nation's highways and transit systems. I am proud to support H.R. 3 and urge all my colleagues to support the bill as well.

Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee

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Mr. Chairman, I rise to commend Chairman Young and Ranking Member Oberstar, as well as the subcommittee leadership for their hard work in crafting the underlying legislation. However, I offer my support for the manager's amendment that seeks to incorporate very important initiatives that were contained in some of the amendments that were made in order by the Committee on Rules.

While the underlying bill before us proposes to provide $620 million for some 175 high priority projects in the State of Texas, there remain issues that will pose significant problems for Houston and for Texas unless this body offers its commitment to address in the future.

Toll credits are a significant resource for transit providers because they can use them in lieu of obtaining a Federal match--thereby greatly expediting the development of major projects that serve the communities. This amendment will cripple the value of the toll credit program.

Without the revenue from toll credits, Texas will have less funding for the reduction of congestion and the improvement of air quality. In reducing an otherwise viable revenue stream, this amendment would restrict local governments like Houston from choosing the best tool to respond to local conditions and priorities. I would have voted against the amendment that would prohibit the tolling of new interstates, including the I-69 Corridor, which lacks an alternate source of financing.

I ask that the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure continue its efforts to provide funds to complete the Interstate 69 Corridor. The termination of the Interstate Program in 1995 left no mechanism to finish the Nation's few remaining incomplete Interstates such as I-69. Currently, there is no program to fund major projects which benefit the Nation as a whole but whose costs exceed States' apportioned funds. Based on these needs, I ask my colleagues to include the National Corridor Infrastructure Improvement Program and the Projects of National and Regional Significance provisions in the bill underlying today. Furthermore, I ask that the committee include them at a funding level equal to those included in H.R. 3550.

The Greater Houston area is subdivided into 6 counties: Chambers, Fort Bend, Liberty, Montgomery, Waller, and my District, Harris. Harris County contains the city of Houston and the largest concentration of people. In the year 2000, approximately 3.5 million people lived in Harris County alone--by far the most populous area. Over the next 20 years, the population of the Houston region will continue to grow.

The historic Fourth Ward in Houston is long overdue for major transportation improvements. Within the underlying bill we have before us today are projects that propose to make critical improvements to the Main Street Corridor. The Fourth Ward emerged as Houston's most prominent African-American neighborhood when thousands of freed slaves flooded into the city after emancipation. These newcomers settled on the fringes of the Third, Fifth, and Fourth wards. The Freedmentown area north of San Felipe and the streets west of downtown not only attracted the largest number of the new black residents but also housed the first black churches, schools, and political organizations. Several factors combined to facilitate the subsequent growth of the Fourth Ward's black community. I would ask that my colleagues take these requests under strong consideration after passage and leading into the conference report.

Improvements to Houston's and Texas' infrastructure will be the priority for me and for my colleagues. Statistically, Houstonians travel more miles per day than there are miles between the earth and the sun. The distance between the earth and the sun is about 93 million miles. Houstonians drive about 156 million miles per day.

The manager's amendment proposes key technical and program improvements to the underlying bill language. In particular, I support the changes to the calculation of ``Revenue Aligned Budget Authority,'' RABA; re-establishment of budgetary firewalls for highways and transit programs; reauthorization of the Swift Rail Act at $100 million per year, title IX of the bill; and extension of revenue provisions approved by the Ways and Means Committee.

Moreover, I support the improvements to the bill proposed in the manager's amendment. In particular, due to the tremendous bipartisan efforts of my colleagues, the amendment now includes language to guarantee that TEA 21's 90.5 percent minimum guarantee is protected, with a scope defined as no less than 92.6 percent of the highway program funds in the bill. This is a significant improvement over the bill passed by the House last year. I thank the distinguished majority leader for his work in ensuring that this measure will protect these provisions, allowing the House to move into conference in a stronger negotiating position toward achieving a higher MG above 90.5 percent. The manager's amendment makes this a better bill for Houstonians and for Texans.

I would like to offer my support for the amendment offered by Mr. Davis of Virginia that will ensure that tolls are applied equally to all users of toll facilities. This amendment would eliminate language in the underlying bill that requires lower tolls to be charged to low income drivers. Since the administration of differential tolls may be challenging for our existing and future toll authorities, this amendment will make important adjustments to the underlying bill.

Secondly, I support the Burgess amendment, which would change the calculation for transportation development credits to ensure that Texas and other States with toll facilities are able to take full advantage of these credits for the benefit of our transit, highway, and highway safety programs. This proposal is vital to the provision of a pro rata calculation of the credits so that we are not penalized for using Federal dollars in our transportation development projects. I support this amendment and ask that my colleagues join me as the Gentleman brings this proposal to the floor.

Furthermore, I support the proposal of Mr. Pitts that would provide a temporary transition period for transit entities, including three in Texas, that, under the most recent census, are now subject to the over 200,000 population prohibition on the use of transit formula dollars for operating expenses. The Pitts amendment would allow those small transit entities in this new situation to use up to 50 percent of their formula funds for operating expenses for fiscal years 2005 through 2007 and up to 25 percent of the formula funds for operating expenses in fiscal years 2008 and 2009.

In addition, I join my colleague from Texas, Mr. Barton in the initiative of his amendment to require studies and assessments of risks to human health or the environment to use sound and objective scientific practices.

Due to the short time allotment given to the floor debate on this measure, I was unable to engage the distinguished ranking member from Minnesota in a colloquy. I wanted to discuss two very specific and very significant issues that relate not only to Houston, but to Texas and many other States that have developing infrastructure and economic cores.

I would have asked the ranking member for his assistance in maintaining the issues that I underscore here as priorities as he and his fellow conferees move closer to finalizing negotiations on this measure. These issues speak to (1) the need for increased transit-related funding in future authorizing and appropriating measures, and (2) the need to maintain Federal oversight of the way in which States and localities regulate the flow of interstate traffic. The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, METRO, is the agency charged with the public transportation and transit needs. METRO has worked over the past 2 years to create a long-range plan for mass transit in the Houston area. After having worked with the community to receive input, the METRO board of directors adopted a blue-print for its long-range plan called ``METRO Solutions.''

The METRO Solutions plan includes: (1) 50 percent increase in METRO's bus service, including approximately 44 new local, signature express, express, and Park & Ride bus routes, (2) nine new Transit Centers and nine new Park & Ride lots, as well as expansion and upgrading existing facilities, (3) expansion of the METRO Rail line and commuter line components, including an overall plan with 72.8 miles of rail, and (4) extension of the payments to local governments for street and other mobility improvements for five additional years, 2010-2014. Texas has a transportation code and it is authorized to act in this field of local government through METRO.

I believe that long-term and comprehensive projects such as that of Houston METRO should be given full Federal support? I would add that the authorization process should allow for innovative financing options to allow projects such as METRO's Advance Transit Plan, ATP, and METRO Solutions.

I would ask that the appropriators and authorizers remain open-minded in crafting measures such as H.R. 3 to the transit needs that exist in areas like Houston, the fourth largest city in the Nation. The distinguished majority leader has been cited as advocating the need for more innovative financing to build infrastructure and to foster economic activity.

Given the situation that Houston METRO and other similar entities face with administrative delays that stem from a very lengthy funding process, I ask that our colleagues follow the leadership of the majority leader from Texas.

We should go to conference and continue to work with the committee to maintain the need for innovative financing for major transit infrastructure.

We should remain committed to maintaining the need for financing options for transit projects that promise to foster economic activity as a priority. Also, with respect to the issue of the need to maintain Federal oversight of the way in which States and localities regulate the flow of interstate traffic, a program called ``SAFE Clear'' has been initiated in the city of Houston and is in the city ordinance.

I congratulate the mayor and city council on the vigorous work that its Office of Mobility has done to improve transportation throughout the city of Houston and remain eager to collaborate with them to facilitate this endeavor from the Federal level.

However, I must make my colleagues aware that, through feedback that I have received from my constituents, the program has disproportionately affected certain groups of motorists, particularly those of lower socio-economic status and those who are or who primarily transport the elderly. While the proposed improvements to the ordinance that provide a ``free tow'' could serve our goals well, motorists who do not qualify for a ``free tow'' will possibly suffer from the disparate effects of the ordinance complained of by constituents.

I ask that the Transportation Conference ensure that provisions are included in this measure and measures in the future that maintain Federal oversight over the regulation of interstate travel. The potentially disparate overall effect of the ordinance merits further analysis, research, and oversight.

I hope we will continue to provide oversight over programs such as this through the legislation that is crafted in committee.

Mr. Chairman, for the foregoing reasons, I support the drafters of this legislation for their efforts to fund priority projects and urge my colleagues to do the same.

Rep. Anthony Weiner

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Mr. Chairman, I rise today to thank the leadership of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for their hard work shepherding through TEA-LU, a bill that I will support despite its flaws. The Department of Transportation studied the Nation's infrastructure and prescribed a $375 billion solution. In the 108th Congress, I joined the leadership in endorsing the original version of this bill, which filled that prescription. Unfortunately, the administration is unwilling to come up with the support necessary to ensure that we are able to maintain and improve the Nation's infrastructure, and threatened to veto any bill that authorized more than $283.9 billion. As a result, we are today considering a bill that does not do nearly enough to improve the quality of life for individuals living in New York City and around the country. I look forward to working with the Committee leadership to see that this bill is improved in conference.

Mr. Chairman, as this bill moves to conference, I want to highlight four issues that are of particular import to me and my constituents. It is my hope that the conferees will include these improvements in the conference report.

First, this bill should ensure that resources are devoted by formula to states that require improvements. The minimum guarantee program shifts funding from states that have the greatest need--like New York--to other States. Each year, New York provides $20 billion more to Washington than it gets back. New Yorkers ought not be punished for our efforts to conserve fuel, as any expansion of the minimum guarantee program would do.

Second, this bill shortchanges New York on transit funding. Despite having almost half of the Nation's transit ridership, New York's share of transit funding leaves much to be desired. Transit funding should better reflect need.

Third, I hope that conferees will ensure that States starved for a consistent funding stream for ferries and waterborne transportation can count on funding from the Ferry Boat Discretionary Fund. I am acutely aware of how much a guaranteed stream of funding would mean to improve both congestion and homeland security all across the country, and particularly in New York City, where roads are clogged on a normal day, and ferry transportation would provide not only congestion relief but another way to ensure escape from Manhattan in the case of a terrorist attack. At a minimum, New York should receive $5 million per year. I hope conferees will work with me and other Members who represent districts that would benefit from a guaranteed ferry funding stream.

Fourth, I hope that conferees will work with me to ensure that the generous funding we have provided for Senior transportation in this bill is put to its best use. I believe that establishing a center for best practices and a technical assistance center, would provide an enormous service to this nation's elderly population.

Nevertheless, Chairman Young, Mr. Oberstar, Chairman Petri, and Mr. DeFazio deserve the thanks and appreciation of every Member of this House for their tireless effort to ensure that the Nation's surface transportation systems receive the resources required to keep America moving.

In particular, I would like to thank both the Democratic and Republican staff of the Transportation Committee, both of whom worked tirelessly on this piece of legislation, and who deserve the entire House's thanks. In particular, I would like to thank Ken House, Clyde Woodle, Eric Vanschyndle, Ward McCarragher, Kathleen Zern, David Heymsfeld, Dara Schleiker, and Sheila Lockwood of Mr. Oberstar's staff. Additionally, I would like to thank Jim Tymon of Mr. Young's staff for his willingness to work with me on the issue of Ferry Transportation.

I would also like to thank Tom Kearney, Tom Herritt and their colleagues at the Albany Office of the Federal Highway Administration, Nancy Ross, Fred Neveu, Ron Epstein and their colleagues at the New York State Department of Transportation, and Andra Horsch and David Woloch and their colleagues at the New York City Department of Transportation.

Rep. Barbara Lee

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Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of H.R. 3, the Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users.

Mr. Speaker, TEA-LU represents the Federal government's ongoing commitment to improving our Nation's entire transportation system for the benefit of everyone.

Our taxes pay for this infrastructure, and this infrastructure is the lifeblood of the commerce that fuels our Nation. The profits of every single business are dependent on this transportation network, and in turn, are dependent on our willingness to pay the taxes that fund this network.

The very existence of our roads, our highways, our rail lines, our ports and our airports is testament to the critical role of the Federal government as the embodiment of our collective responsibility.

It's the elegantly simple idea that by paying your taxes you improve the quality of life of every person in this country and lay the foundation for a strong economy that benefits everyone.

Federal, State and local governments, corporations, small businesses, individuals--all of us have a responsibility to contribute our share. It is our right to use this infrastructure, but it is also our duty to maintain and improve it for the future.

While we plan for the future, the benefits are real, now.

In my district this bill will provide funding to a number of worthwhile projects that will improve the quality of life for my constituents, the State of California and the entire Nation.

One project in particular that I'm very proud of is the Ed Roberts Campus. This state of the art project makes it easier for people with disabilities to get around. It links eight disability organizations to create a multi-tenant facility that will serve as an intermodal transit center as well as a transportation information and travel-training center for people with disabilities.

The Ed Roberts Campus will play a major role in assisting and teaching people with disabilities to live their lives independently. And because it will be located above the Ashby BART station in Berkeley, its reach will stretch throughout the entire Bay Area, simultaneously serving as a model for urban independent living throughout the Nation.

I'm proud to support the Ed Roberts Campus, and I'm happy to announce that $3 million will go towards it through TEA-LU.

Another set of projects that I'm also very proud of are the transit oriented developments planned in the City of Oakland and the City of Emeryville. Transit oriented development is a relatively new concept that joins housing, business, public transportation and recreational areas into one liveable community.

We have been on the cutting edge of transit oriented development in my district from the very beginning. And last year's successful opening of the Fruitvale Transit Village in Oakland has served as a model for other transit oriented development projects in the Bay Area and throughout the country.

I'm happy to announce that TEA-LU will directly provide another $2 million for such projects in Oakland and Emeryville.

Another issue of concern and an area where this bill makes an immediate impact for my constituents is the construction of sidewalks in several unincorporated areas in Ashland and Cherryland in my district.

Even though sidewalks are often taken for granted--for a child, the simple act of walking to school can be treacherous without them. Thanks to TEA-LU, we will have another $1 million to construct those sidewalks and keep these kids safe in many neglected parts of my district.

The funding in TEA-LU for these and other projects is incredibly important to me and my constituents. But the truth is we need much more funding and not just in my district, but throughout the country.

Our transportation system is aging. The growth and sprawl of many of our cities has strained transportation networks throughout the country, and placed a greater burden on our environment.

I commend my colleagues on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for trying to address these problems through TEA-LU. But the President must also do his part and support more funding.

Make no mistake, this is not just about transportation. This is about jobs. This is about the health of our environment, and the health of our economy.

Every state, every city, and every member is invested in this piece of legislation, because this bill makes an investment in America.

The decisions we make today will affect the health of our nation for decades to come. And I hope that the President listens to us and makes the right one.

Rep. Gene Green

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Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of the hard work of my colleagues, Chairman Don Young, Ranking Member Jim Oberstar, Chairman Tom Petri, and Ranking Member Pete DeFazio.

This legislation will help our nation keep up with its ever growing transportation needs, but I want to add that it does fall short.

It falls short because we have not indexed the gas tax or added the small increases necessary to allow the country to successfully grow.

The Department of Transportation estimated that it will take at least $350 billion to keep up with our transportation needs, but the Administration has drawn a line in the sand at $289 billion.

I would ask the President to look back at Texas, where the Republican leadership is now seriously considering indexing the Texas state gas tax, as I proposed many years ago in the state legislature.

The gas tax is the easiest tax to defend for a politician, because the benefit to drivers is obvious, and if you don't use your car or truck on the roads, you don't have to pay it.

Now we forced into a situation where every new highway in America will be tolled, something my middle and low-income commuters and professional truck drivers vigorously oppose.

So I support this legislation, but I also support the re-opener provision that allows us to consider a gas tax index proposal in the future.

I also support further efforts in conference to increase the scope of the minimum guarantee and increase the rate of return on that minimum guarantee. Texas deserves at least 95 percent of the gas tax revenue that we pay into the system.

I support the efforts of the Majority Leader to improve our rate of return, but I also encourage him to study what his colleagues, including the Speaker of the Texas House, are considering for the state gas tax.

This legislation also included two projects of critical importance to my area in Houston, the reconstruction of Clinton Dr. near the Port of Houston and the construction of US90 from the Beltway into Loop 610.

Clinton Dr. is currently in a state of disrepair causing safety concerns and the constant maintenance work is a drain on local resources.

US90 will provide much needed mobility for Northeast Harris County, by completing a project that has been on the books for many years. Development along this corridor will be encouraged and greatly improve the area.

I want to thank Congressman Ted Poe for working with us on the US90 project, which will also benefit his constituents by providing another route into central Houston and by relieving traffic on I-10 east and US 59 North.

Mr. Chairman, I encourage my colleagues to vote for the bill.

Rep. Don Young

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Mr. Chairman, I insert into the Record an exchange of letters between myself and Chairman Pombo regarding H.R. 3.