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Public Statements

Surface and Air Transportation Programs Extension Act of 2011

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. DUNCAN of Tennessee. I thank Chairman Mica for yielding me this time and for his and Ranking Member Rahall's outstanding work on this legislation.

Mr. Speaker, H.R. 2887 extends the surface transportation programs for another 6 months, from October 1 through March 31 of 2012, and the aviation programs for another 4 months, from October 1 through January 31 of 2012, at funding levels consistent with the full-year continuing resolution passed last April.

This extension is considered clean and no policy provisions were added. During this 6-month Surface Transportation extension, Congress will work hard to pass the committee's 6-year Surface Transportation reauthorization bill. The outline of the committee's proposal was unveiled in June and makes much-needed reforms to our highway transit and highway safety programs.

The committee's proposal will streamline the project delivery process, consolidate existing programs, and better leverage existing revenues in the highway trust fund. According to the Federal Highway Administration, the project delivery process can take up to 15 years from planning through construction. This is government at its worst.

Limited financial resources for transportation and infrastructure can be more effectively utilized by accelerating the process for project approval. While project reviews are necessary to help protect the environment, a more reasonable process is essential to maximizing our taxpayer dollars.

Additionally, the bill consolidates existing programs that are duplicative and do not serve a Federal interest. Consolidation in our 6-year bill will help States allocate their Federal resources to projects and activities that are the most needed. These programatic reforms will devolve the decisionmaking authority to State and local authorities, giving the State and local people more control over these important projects.

If Congress moves this landmark piece of legislation before the spring, as we all hope, it will be considered the signature jobs bill that Americans have been waiting for this Congress to pass. It will create millions of jobs for hardworking Americans right here in the United States--not in China or India or other countries--and will leave a lasting legacy of tangible improvements to our transportation infrastructure in this country. By passing a long-term reauthorization bill, Americans will be able to see their tax dollars going towards rebuilding and strengthening our Nation's highways, bridges, and transit systems.

Mr. Speaker, I also had the privilege to chair the Aviation Subcommittee for 6 years. A strong and efficient aviation system is vital to our economy, and I am pleased that we are also extending our air transportation programs in this bill. I hope we will soon pass our traditional multiyear FAA bill, too.

I urge my colleagues to pass this piece of legislation and work towards passing a long-term reauthorization bill for both our surface transportation programs and our air transportation programs.

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