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Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. PRYOR. Mr. President, I rise in support of the highway bill conference report. This legislation is 2 years overdue, and I am pleased that we are finally completing this very critical piece of legislation.

I would like to thank Senators INHOFE, BOND, JEFFORDS, BAUCUS, and their staffs for their very hard work on this bill and commend them for the bipartisan way in which they have proceeded.

I would also like to thank Senator LOTT and Senator INOUYE, the chairman and co chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine, for their work on the safety portions of this bill, as well as Senator STEVENS, the chair of the full Commerce Committee. I was proud to have worked on these very important motor carrier and passenger safety provisions.

I have addressed this body before with my concerns about the need for a highway bill.

In America over one-third of our major roads are both deteriorating and congested. In Arkansas, 47 percent of our roads are in poor or mediocre condition--almost half. Additionally, over one in four bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.

The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that close to 42,800 persons died in car crashes in 2004. Over 2,000 Arkansans have died on our highways over the past several years. Too many families die on our highways--plain and simple.

The amount of freight expected to travel on our Nation's highways over the next 20 years is expected to double. Not only do we need to improve the existing system, we feed to increase the capacity of the system.

This bill would decrease congestion on American roads and enable businesses to transport their materials across the United States safely. It would also spur economic development and create many jobs for hard-working Americans.

The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that for every $1 billion of investment in our highways, we create 47,500 jobs annually. This bill provides a record amount of investment in our Nation's highways and interstates, over $286 billion.

But we still have much work to do. We must continue to make investments in infrastructure, and we must work toward finding creative solutions to our transportation problems. After all, good schools, good health care, and good jobs don't mean much if you can't get there.

I am pleased this bill provides funding increases that could be used to make substantial progress on important economic development projects in my State and around the country. With passage of this bill, Arkansas would be able to make progress on many critical projects such as the Northeast Arkansas Connector, the Caraway Bridge Overpass, the Interstate 430/630 Interchange Modification, the Perry Road Overpass, and the Hot Springs East-West Arterial, just to name a few. These projects will greatly enhance the capacity and safety of Arkansas roadways.

This bill also enables Arkansas to make significant progress on our two large corridors, I-49 and I-69, that, if completed, would help generate economic expansion, add jobs, and provide isolated areas with transportation options. I am pleased this bill provides $75 million for the I-69 Corridor, including the Great River Bridge which serves as a ``Bridge Across the Delta.'' It provides $72 million for the I-69 Connector, which will enable the northern part of the State to access I-69. 1 am also pleased that this bill provides $37 million for the I-49 Bella Vista Bypass and several other projects that will reduce congestion and allow for further economic development in northwest Arkansas, one of the top 10 fastest growing areas in America.

This is a wise investment that will pay for itself by fostering interstate commerce, bolstering tourism, and creating jobs.

Mr. President, this is a good bill. It is a long overdue bill. It is a bipartisan bill. My constituents support it, I support it, and I urge my colleagues to support it.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.


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