Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

By:  Steve Chabot
Date: June 27, 2012
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CHABOT. Mr. Chairman, this Nation cannot continue spending money it doesn't have. It is imperative that Congress end the borrow-and-spend mentality that created our staggering national debt and that we put our Nation on a sustainable path to a balanced budget. Now, more than ever, we need to be pragmatic in our approach to transportation, ensuring that every dollar spent represents a long-term investment that will improve the flow of commerce and create American jobs.

My amendment this evening is about priorities. The city of Cincinnati has been in the planning process of constructing a streetcar for years now. The primary funding for this project came in the form of an urban circulator grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation in the amount of $25 million. Earlier this year, city of Cincinnati officials came to my office looking for even more funds for the Cincinnati streetcar project. The total cost is expected to be well over $120 million for a 4-mile loop connecting only two Cincinnati neighborhoods with little-to-no positive impact on traffic congestion, freight, or our aging infrastructure. Far from a necessity, the Cincinnati streetcar is a luxury project that our Nation and our region simply cannot afford.

Imprudent and irresponsible spending of taxpayer dollars on discretionary projects like this must stop. For too long, taxpayers have been footing the bill for frivolous projects that reap little to no benefit. Much like the ``bridge to nowhere,'' this ``streetcar to nowhere'' is yet another instance of wasteful government spending.

My amendment simply says, no more--no more funding for this streetcar in my own district. Unlike the Cincinnati streetcar, however, there are a number of other infrastructure projects that are of high priority and far more worthy of Federal infrastructure investment. In particular, there are two ready-to-begin projects that would have a direct impact on Cincinnati's economy and create permanent jobs, and those are replacing the Brent Spence Bridge and completing the I-71 Martin Luther King interchange.

The Brent Spence Bridge carries two major interstate highways that connect Ohio and Kentucky and serves as a major thoroughfare not just for Cincinnatians, but for the entire Midwest region, and in fact the Nation at large. Furthermore, this bridge rests on one of the busiest freight routes in North America and is estimated to carry 4 percent of the Nation's gross domestic product annually.

The Federal Highway Administration has declared the Brent Spence Bridge functionally obsolete, indicating that the current state of the bridge does not meet today's standards. Currently, this bridge carries 170,000 vehicles on average per day, which is more than double the 80,000 it was designed to carry. Replacing the bridge would save an estimated $748 million in congestion costs annually, savings that would grow in real dollars to $1.3 billion annually by 2030.

The other worthy project I mentioned, the Martin Luther King interchange plan, has long been on the minds of businesses and citizens in our region, so much so that stakeholders have their own money in this plan. Unlike the streetcar to nowhere, the completion of this much-needed project would have a direct impact on one of Cincinnati's most important economic hubs. The Martin Luther King interchange would free up traffic congestion around the University of Cincinnati, Children's Hospital, and the uptown region of Cincinnati.

This proposed interchange would directly impact 60,000 people who work in the area and allow far greater highway access, generating an additional 2,000-plus permanent jobs.

We need to focus our limited resources on projects that are practical, impactful, and that will deliver results. Those of us in Congress must make responsible choices and invest in projects on their merits and nothing else. We owe it to the American people to invest only in those projects that will produce real results, keep us competitive, and, most importantly, create American jobs.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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