EMERSON RADIO ADDRESS: On the Road Again
March 19, 2005
"Congress is on a familiar road again. Last week, my colleagues in the House of Representatives and I voted once again to reauthorize the nation's transportation programs. If you remember, last year I cast a similar vote, but the bill foundered in the Senate. Hopefully, this year will be different.
No one can drive Southern Missouri's highways and claim they need no improvements. Despite projects to strengthen Highway 60 and Highway 67, our other highways, bridges, rails, inland waterways and rural air service are in dire need of attention. Our many transportation systems are valuable arteries for economic development. Southern Missouri farmers and manufacturers depend on this infrastructure to get product to market, sell their goods, and bring their employees to work.
Nationwide, three out of every ten bridges are obsolete or deficient and one-third of our roads are in poor condition. The new philosophy on transportation construction in our country must at least mirror the substantial investment other nations are making in their own roads and waterways, most notably in South America. In America, our ability to compete depends on the low cost of moving products from station to station, and ultimately to foreign markets. America's widening trade deficit indicates we must do a better job to make transportation an affordable part of American industry.
According to figures compiled by the U.S. Department of Transportation, every $1 billion of federal investment in highway improvements creates or sustains 47,500 jobs and yields $500 million in new orders for the manufacturing sector. Further delay in this legislation only means uncertainty for states as they plan their budget for the fiscal year ahead. The uncertainty quickly spreads in our rural economy, as mounting transportation costs worry farmers and manufacturers who must get their goods to market. Higher shipping costs ultimately raise the prices of nearly every good on our store shelves.
In 2002, $5 trillion (with a 'T') in freight was transported over America's highways.
In the years ahead, a strong transportation infrastructure will only become more important to America's economy, especially in rural areas. Over the next 20 years, truck traffic is expected to grow by 90 percent because of our expanding economy and an increasing reliance on materials delivered just-in-time to manufacturing facilities. It becomes even more important to minimize congestion in order to keep the flow of commerce moving.
And then there is the most important concern: safety. More than 42,000 Americans are killed in motor vehicle accidents every year. Interstate 70, which was built to handle truck traffic at about 18 percent of its total load, today handles truck traffic at a rate of 45 percent. Construction crews work from one end of our state to another, patching and implementing stopgap solutions to growing structural problems. As the transportation burden on the trucking industry grows, our roads degrade faster and become less safe. All the more reason to keep our railways and waterways viable and affordable for the transport of goods.
The disrepair on our nation's interior waterways has doubled the down-time at locks and dams in just the last ten years. These outages delay shipments, cost farmers income, and make barges an unreliable option for farmers who must move their harvests quickly or risk it rotting at the port.
Yet we cannot avoid an increase in truck traffic altogether. So a major component of the
transportation reauthorization must be the quality and capacity of our highways. This bill is a fundamental step towards putting our nation, and our economy, on the road again."
Emerson Radio Address: On the Road Again
Date: March 19, 2005