On Wednesday I joined 25 other witnesses to share thoughts and advice on the next transportation bill with the important Highways and Transit Subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. You read that right -- 25 of us, one-by-one, giving four minutes of oral testimony. And this was the second day of hearings. All told, as Tanya Snyder at streetsblog.net notes, there were 40 witnesses all favoring more investment in transportation infrastructure (no surprise given crumbling bridges, roads and transit lines).
Fortunately half the point of these hearings is to submit written testimony, so Members and staff have a reference tool for writing bills. And there's no page limit, so I did my level best to put a lot of advice and specifics together, which you can read here.
The main topics I covered won't surprise those who read these pages. I told Members of Congress that we must overhaul the program to improve its performance and restore the public's faith in it (i.e., no more "bridges to nowhere," please) by:
1. Ensuring that transportation dollars are invested in projects that bring the highest returns by requiring performance-based planning and accountability for outcomes;
2. Prioritizing the rehabilitation of aging roads, rail lines and bridges, and ensuring that all transportation facilities are well-maintained for optimal use and operation;
3. Focusing improvements to the transportation system on projects that help to reduce our dependence on oil;
4. Funding and financing maintenance, operations and growth of the system;
5. Improving project development and delivery;
6. Developing a national goods movement strategy; and
7. Protecting our water quality and wildlife populations.
The good news is that they seemed to be listening. One of the other witnesses, former 12-term Republican Congressman Sherry Boehlert, who testified on behalf of the Bipartisan Policy Center, told the committee that in spite of what people read about Congress in the press he knows firsthand that there are a lot of good, hardworking people on Capitol Hill. I agree with that.