Paving The Way For Safer Highways For All Americans
DATE: March 11, 2005
Last week, with my help the House passed a $284 billion highway and transit funding bill, the Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, that addresses the ever-growing challenges of congestion and safety on our streets and highways as well as continuing to improve 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 highways and public transportation, 47,500 jobs are created or sustained.
Congestion has been a growing problem for many cities and towns across the country. Each year, congestion of our highways causes over $67 billion in lost productivity and wasted fuel and affects 33 percent of all travel on America's major roadways. This bill creates a Congestion Relief Program that implements new state spending requirements for projects that maximize roadway capacity and efficiency and remove bottlenecks. Congestion relief provisions will help highway managers squeeze more capacity from our existing highway investments while empowering them to build projects and conduct analyses that will also recapture unused capacity.
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. Poor road conditions and roadside hazards are a contributing factor in nearly 1/3 of all fatal vehicle crashes each year. 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 adopt strategies and fund projects designed to allow children to walk and bike to school safely.
In addition to the increased number of cars on our nation's highways, we've seen a significant increase in the number of freight trucks. Anyone who's traveled through the Shenandoah Valley on Interstate 81 can attest to the high truck volume. It is projected that in the next 20 years, truck travel will increase 90 percent due to an expanding economy and an increased reliance on quick delivery. This bill provides $830 million for a new program to fund the construction of dedicated truck lanes. This gives the Commonwealth of Virginia the possible option of separating truck traffic from the passenger cars to improve the safe and efficient movement of freight and the overall safety of highway travel.
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 my colleagues for passing this significant legislation that will benefit all Americans.