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Conference Report on H.R. 4348, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. DeFAZIO. I yield myself 2 minutes.

This is 27 months of certainty for the States. That's good. They'll be able to plan major projects. That will mean there will be some equipment acquisitions by contractors and others, unlike the short-term miniscule amount of money spent during the so-called ``stimulus'' bill, which I opposed. That's good. But this is not enough.

Ten years ago, the United States of America was rated as having the fifth-best transportation infrastructure in the world. Not great, but not that bad. Today, we are 25th in the world. Most Third World countries are spending a much larger percentage of their gross domestic product on transportation infrastructure than we are.

The Eisenhower legacy is crumbling. We have 150,000 bridges that need repair or replacement. Forty percent of the pavement on the national highway system needs to be totally redone, not just surfaced. And we have a $70 billion backlog in transit, and we have Buy America rules, which guarantee that all the products that go into those jobs, that investment we need, would be kept here at home. So we did not get to that point with this bill.

This is essentially a little decline from what we just spent last year on transportation infrastructure. And what we spent last year, according to two blue ribbon panels commissioned during the Bush administration, is about half of what we need to begin to bring this up to a world-class system to compete with the rest of the world and deal with the deficiencies. Build a 21st century transportation system. This money in this bill for 27 months will be enough to put a few more Band-Aids on the 20th century, and the 19th century infrastructure, in some places, that we're still utilizing.

There are good things. It builds on the ideas that Chairman Oberstar and I offered 2 years ago to dramatically consolidate the bureaucracy downtown at the Department of Transportation. We don't need to be spending money on 106 different programs that are so complicated that no one knows how to apply, and how to apply the rules, and all that. That's good. We're going to consolidate that. It does some streamlining so projects will get done more quickly.

There are a number of salutary aspects of this bill. But we need to do better by the American people the next time we address that issue.


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