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Public Statements

Surface Transportation Extension Act, 2011: House of Representatives

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. COHEN. I want to thank Ranking Member Rahall for the time.

Madam Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 662, the Surface Transportation Authorization Act of 2011. Last Friday, I was in Millington, Tennessee and I joined with Chairman Mica and Mr. Fincher on a transportation bill listening session. Chairman Mica went all across the country listening to folks on the needs of transportation. We heard from all kinds of folks saying how important this is for the future of our country, getting goods to market, and improving our infrastructure. The listening session focused on those needs of a new surface transportation authorization. And while this legislation is just another extension of SAFETEA-LU, it is important that we act quickly and extend the surface transportation authorization before it expires on Friday.

My hope is that H.R. 662 will be the final short-term extension Congress uses to extend SAFETEA-LU because this country needs a comprehensive, long-term surface transportation authorization. Chairman Mica has promised everybody on the tour that we're not going to have more extensions, that we're going to pass a bill just like we did with the FAA reauthorization. Seven extensions was enough. We need to move this country forward and get those programs started.

By continuing to extend SAFETEA-LU and not passing a new authorization, Congress has created uncertainty in the transportation sector which has limited the ability to invest in a crumbling infrastructure network. The importance of immediate passage cannot be emphasized enough. Not only will reauthorization create millions of quality jobs--jobs that are needed by Americans now and that have been neglected thus far in Congress--and provide States and MPOs a known, dedicated funding stream, but it will also address the dire need for investment in the Nation's transportation system.

In the 2012 Department of Transportation budget proposal, President Obama lays out a bold vision for a surface transportation authorization. The President understands the United States will not maintain its mantle as the greatest Nation in the world without an intermodal transportation system that enables America to compete in the 21st century global economy.

To that end, the President has called for a $556 billion, 6-year surface transportation authorization that includes a $50 billion ``up front'' economic boost to jump-start job creation. Jobs.

As the President said in his State of the Union, now is not the time to stand pat. This is why I believe we need to pass a surface transportation bill that increases revenue, makes a significant investment in maintaining existing infrastructure, and spurs development of innovative infrastructure networks such as high-speed rail and aerotropolis transportation systems.

I appreciate Chairman Mica including aerotropolis language in the FAA reauthorization bill and look forward to seeing that same language included in the surface transportation reauthorization act which was discussed in Memphis.

As New York Times columnist Paul Krugman said, ``We must win the future, not eat it.'' I look forward to working with Chairman Mica, Subcommittee Chairman Duncan, and Ranking Members Rahall and DeFazio in seeing that we pass a comprehensive surface transportation authorization that strengthens our infrastructure, spurs innovation, creates jobs, ensures safety and wins the future. We are winners.


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