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Public Statements

Providing for Consideration of H.R. 662, Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2011

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BILBRAY. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the rule, and I would just like to say, Mr. Speaker, I think this is an opportunity for all of us, both Democrats and Republicans, to talk openly and frankly about the fact that we are at a point in our history where we need to not only spend money, but we have to be smarter, too. I think too often in Washington we are thinking that our degree of efficiency or compassion is based on how much we spend and not how well we accomplish our goals.

I would only ask my colleague who just addressed us to join with some of us who say that we need to be smarter. As a former member of the Air Resources Board in California, I can show you studies that have been done by very noted research people that point out--one study alone that says we could reduce fuel and emission problems by 22.6 percent. But to do that, we not only have to address what is the private sector doing in Detroit in building cars, but what is the government sector doing in controlling those cars when they are on the road.

One of the biggest problems we have is Washington sends money out for projects, but we do not hold those projects to a standard that has been upgraded to 21st century standards. An example: There are studies that have shown that 97 percent of all stop signs that you and I stop for every day, Mr. Speaker, don't have to be stop signs. Those could be yield signs. Now granted, there are those sites with sight-distance problems where you have to have stops. But when you and I go drive down out of our home tomorrow morning, think about when you stop, why are you stopping? It's not for safety. Lord forbid, it's not for fuel consumption or for environmental conservation; it is because the law says you have to stop, even though there is a cost in environmental and economic impact. The safety factor is not the factor being determined. It is easier for a local government to give you a ticket on a stop sign, or at least that perception is there, when a yield sign is just as enforceable.

A good example is why is a four-way stop always the easiest and the cheapest way for a government to be able to control an intersection when everybody knows that a roundabout has been proven to be a major source of safety and environmental and economic benefit.

The fact is that communities that have been brave enough to try new traffic control, like the new computer-engineered roundabouts and traffic circles, have not only proven that it reduces congestion by a huge amount because it stops the queuing approach; it also eliminates that pollution that stop signs cause by five times more polluting than allowing somebody to drive through an intersection at low speed, that roundabouts do. But it also eliminates, as the gentleman who just spoke brought up, the safety factor. A roundabout eliminates the T-boning where fatalities occur. Actually, by going to the next generation of traffic control, we can not only address fuel consumption and pollution, but we can make our roads safer.

So I really call on my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, let's look at making sure that when we send this money over to the States and the cities and the counties--and I was a mayor. I ran a transit system, the San Diego trolley system. We helped build that system. We need to make sure that we are doing the right thing in government. And one of the things that we are not doing in government that we can do and lead through example, if we truly care about public safety, environmental protection and fuel efficiency, if we really want to lead, let's not mandate on the private sector that they have to do something if we're not willing to look at our colleagues here in government and say: We have to reform ourselves.

I call on my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, let's work together. Let's start saying, look, local governments, counties and cities; the environmental, economic, and safety impacts of you not upgrading your traffic control to an efficient system is costing our economy 22.6 percent more than it should. It is costing our environment 22.6 percent that it shouldn't. And the fact is, we don't know how many lives we can save until we are willing to do that.

I call on both sides, let's get together and work on this and set an example for the rest of the world.


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