If we want economic growth, we must anticipate increased traffic. Proper planning, maintenance of existing roads and construction of new roads will help reduce travel times and increase public safety.
When President Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act, it was hard to imagine the impact it would have on our economy and on rural communities. Although the positives of the Federal Interstate System greatly outweigh the negatives, Texans today face an accompanying problem: congestion and safety.
There were more than 100 traffic fatalities last year on I-35, making it the deadliest highway in Texas and one of the most deadly in the country. Our roads and bridges are in critical need of repair and improvement. Our local traffic is unacceptable and at times intolerable. Only a decade ago, 20,000 loaded trucks crossed the border at Laredo and up the I-35 corridor each year. That number has increased to 120,000, which is largely due to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
We can encourage economic growth and job creation if we repair our transportation infrastructure. New roads and highways are needed to meet the population growth.
The transportation appropriations bill is usually renewed every five years. In 2005, Congress passed the Transportation Equity Act, which included $12.8 million that I obtained for transportation projects in the 21st Congressional District. This legislation will make our roads safer, reduce traffic congestion, improve air quality, and create jobs.
I was also able to obtain approval for the future construction of a $350 million commuter rail project in the bill. Once completed, commuter trains will run on existing rail lines along the I-35 corridor. The effect of this is that it puts the commuter rail project in line for future funding.
We need to prepare for the future. With the Internet, we have the ability to travel half-way across the globe in a matter of seconds. Yet it can take an hour to travel a route that should take only 15 minutes.
An improved transportation system reduces fatalities and injuries. That should be the primary consideration when building new roads and highways.