Transportation touches every facet of our lives. If any part of the transportation system breaks down, we feel the impact immediately. Investment in our transportation modes is vital to enhancing our economy, increasing our safety, maintaining our global competitiveness, and most importantly improving our quality of life. Through my work on the House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I am actively working on transportation issues that are important to the 13th District.
Highways and Transit
The House is preparing for the multi-year surface transportation authorization bill, which will authorize Federal surface transportation programs for highways, highway safety, and transit. In urban areas, such as the 13th District, transportation plays a critical role in the soundness of our economy and in our quality of life, which is why I have taken the lead on pushing policy changes that will be beneficial to our area.
Our streets should be accessible to everyone -- young and old, motorcyclists and bicyclists, pedestrians and wheelchair users, bus riders and business owners. However, too many of our roads are designed solely for cars and trucks. I am a strong supporter of the implementation of Complete Streets, which ensures that transportation agencies design and operate the entire right of way to enable safe access for all users. Simple adjustments such as sidewalks, bike lanes, special bus lanes, accessible transit stops, and improved cross walks will make our streets safer, our environment cleaner, and communities healthier and more accessible.
Commuters sitting in traffic during peak hours spend an extra 34 hours of time stuck in traffic, which is a 14 hour increase from 1982. For many Americans, transportation costs account for their second highest household expense. To provide commuter relief, I introduced H.R. 260, Commute Leveraging Employer Support and Successes (LESS), legislation which will help expand commuting options by giving employers the tools and resources needed to provide their employees with alternative forms of transportation. Additionally, sponsors of large projects will be required to submit congestion mitigation plans. To learn more about Commute LESS, please view my press release on H.R. 260. A national commuter relief program will ease the burden of commuting for many families.
Freight and Moving Goods
New Jersey's economy depends largely on our ability to effectively and efficiently move goods. More than 269,000, or approximately 1 in 8, jobs in the state are directly affected by the goods movement industry, which includes the shipping of everything from food and clothing to cars and industrial supplies. More efficient goods movement enhances our ability to move on the roads, decreases harmful environmental effects, and minimizes damage to our infrastructure.
The Department of Transportation estimates that freight tons transported are expected to double by 2035, and this increase will lead to increased congestion on our nation's already over burdened highways, railways, airports, and ports.
To alleviate this expected increase in congestion, I introduced H.R. 1338, Focusing Resources, Economic Investment, and Guidance to Help Transportation, or the FREIGHT Act, and am recommending that language from my bill be included in the long term surface transportation bill. Under my legislation, a dedicated Office of Freight Planning and Development would be established within the Department of Transportation, a national freight transportation policy would be established, and a competitive national freight infrastructure investment grants program would be implemented. To learn more about the FREIGHT Act, please view my press release on H.R. 1338. Currently, there is no separate federal freight transportation program, and it is important that a robust freight program be included in the upcoming surface transportation bill.
The Port of New York and New Jersey is the largest port on the East Coast and critical to the movement of goods in our nation. As global trade increases and container ships become larger, the Bayonne Bridge, which connects Bayonne, New Jersey, with Staten Island, New York, has become an obstacle. The current clearance of 150 feet is too low for larger ships to reach Port Newark and Elizabeth Port Authority Marine Terminals in New Jersey. Therefore, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced that they will modernize the roadway by raising the bridge's roadway to 215 feet. These plans will not only permit larger ships to go under the bridge, but will also widen roadway travel lanes and include bikeway and walkways to improve safety.
With the proximity of the Newark Liberty International Airport to the 13th District of New Jersey, I am committed to protecting the workers and the customers of Newark Airport. As the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) pushes extensive airspace redesign and proposes congestion pricing schemes, Congressional oversight is essential, and I have been working with my colleagues to ensure that the FAA hears the concerns of the people of New Jersey. I believe we all deserve air travel that is safe, reliable and affordable.
High Speed Rail
While countries across the world have invested in high speed rail, the United States is lagging behind. New Jersey is located on the Northeast Corridor, which is the nation's busiest corridor that runs between Washington, DC and Boston, MA. Dedicated, high speed rail in this region will create new jobs, sustain long-term employment, and spur economic development in the region. The ridership in the Northeast Corridor can support this infrastructure investment. Indeed, rail has grown exponentially during the last decade, and the current air/rail market share has reached 73% between Washington, DC and New York, NY. Federal investment in the Northeast Corridor is not yet at the level necessary; however, there have been funds provided to upgrade the rail infrastructure. In May 2011, nearly $800 million in high speed rail funding was awarded to the Northeast Corridor to update tracks. In January 2012, the White House Council on Environmental Quality, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Transportation, announced a pilot project aimed at speeding up the environmental review process for high speed rail service in the Northeast Corridor. Investing in infrastructure is sound policy and high speed rail investment has the ability to revitalize our economy, lower our carbon footprint, and provide an additional transportation alternative.