Today the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology's Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation held a hearingto review the research, development, and technology (RD&T) activities of the Department of Transportation (DOT). The hearing also focused on what research priorities and provisions should be incorporated into the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) reauthorization.
Subcommittee Ranking Member David Wu (D-OR)said, "If we are committed to making our transportation system more reliable and efficient, we need robust and effective transportation research programs. I am pleased that this subcommittee continues to take seriously its critical role in guiding DOT's research and development priorities, while seeking input on the specific investments needed to see those priorities through to fruition."
In 2005, SAFETEA-LU authorized $2.2 billion through Fiscal Year 2009 for research and related programs under Title V of the bill. Title V authorizes surface transportation research by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), training and education programs, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, and Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Research. Since that authorization expired in 2009, a series of short-term extensions have continued funding for DOT's surface transportation programs. The current extension expires September 30, 2011.
Democratic Members and witnesses discussed the importance of effective oversight to protect taxpayers' investment, the significant role research from U.S. universities plays in improving the performance of our transportation infrastructure, and essential activities such as technology transfer that ensures research is put into practice.
They also emphasized the need to continue investing in transportation RD&T activities. In her testimony today, Ms. Lynn Peterson, Transportation Policy Advisor to Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, said "[V]irtually every aspect of our transportation system needs to be transformed in the short and medium term future and this challenge can only be met through innovations developed through research."
Ranking Member Wu also discussed improving the energy efficiency of our entire transportation system. He said, "Sustainability and energy efficiency are no longer just buzzwords in the transportation community. They are crucial components of a working national infrastructure. We must use our resources carefully and plan strategically--and that requires a commitment to finding simple and innovative ways to increase the productivity and longevity of our transportation systems."