CREATING SAFER HIGHWAYS FOR AMERICA
Recently, the President signed into law a comprehensive federal highway, transit and road safety funding bill, the Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (TEA LU). This much-needed legislation addresses the ever-growing challenges of congestion, driver safety and inefficient highway projects as well as improvements to freight mobility and public transportation. Not only will this bill improve our overall transportation infrastructure, it will also create jobs for Americans. It is estimated that for every $1 billion invested in federal highway and transit, 47,000 jobs are created or sustained.
Due to increased growth many cities and towns across the country are experiencing severe problems with traffic congestion. Traffic congestion affects 33 percent of all travel on America's major roadways and costs the average traveler who drives during peak periods almost $1,200 a year. This bill creates a Congestion Relief Program that implements new state spending requirements for projects that increase motor vehicle travel reliability, maximize roadway capacity and efficiency, and remove bottlenecks.
Improving the safety of our nation's roads is paramount and the Transportation Equity Act outlines specific projects to improve the safety of our roadways. Substandard road conditions and roadside hazards are a contributing factor in nearly 1/3 of all fatal vehicle crashes each year. TEA LU creates a new core program for highway safety infrastructure improvements with its own dedicated funding stream. This bill provides $590 million for a new High Risk Rural Road Safety Improvement Program that targets funding for safety improvements on rural two-lane roads. Additionally, it creates a new Safe Routes to School program which provides $875 million to encourage communities to create strategies and fund projects designed to allow children to walk and bike to school safely.
TEA LU will also provide critical funding to Virginia to enhance the transportation system here in the Commonwealth. This legislation includes a 31.8% increase in federal highway funding for Virginia over the next five years. Additionally, Virginia, long considered a "donor state" because of its history of contributing more than it receives in federal highway funds, will see an increase on that rate of return annually. Virginia has received a 90.5% return on its contributions of federal gas tax dollars over the past six years. This critical legislation will increase that rate of return annually, ultimately to 92% in FY 2008 and 2009.
Our economy relies on the safety and efficiency of our transportation system. This bill provides the funding and guidelines to streamline our efforts in relieving congestion, improving dangerous road conditions, and will create and sustain employment opportunities in our communities. I applaud the Congress for passing this important legislation that will help Americans navigate our national highways efficiently and safely.