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Price Opening Statement at T-HUD Hearing with Secretary Foxx

February 26, 2015
Price Opening Statement at T-HUD Hearing with Secretary Foxx

Washington, DC – Congressman David E. Price (NC-04), Ranking Member of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, made the following opening statement at this afternoon’s hearing with Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I’d like to join you in welcoming my friend and fellow North Carolinian, Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx.  I am familiar with his many accomplishments as Mayor of Charlotte, and I know we are lucky to have him leading DOT.

Mr. Secretary, your work in the rapidly growing metropolitan area of Charlotte, particularly on the LYNX light rail system and the expansion of the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, demonstrates that you know how to execute critical transportation projects.  In your almost two years as Secretary, you have also seen first-hand our nation’s great infrastructure needs, and I am pleased to see that your FY 2016 budget proposal requests robust, ambitious, and critically-needed funding for our nation’s transportation system.

The Appropriations Committee provides year-by-year funding for agency programs and activities.  Importantly, this allows the Congress to adjust funding levels for programs when priorities change or when unexpected pressing issues arise.  However, our focus on the annual funding levels means we sometimes lose sight of long-term goals and challenges.

I mention this for a couple of reasons.  For one, on the very day that the annual FY 2016 budget was released, Secretary Foxx unveiled a DOT analysis that outlines the challenges that our transportation system will face over the next three decades.  The “Beyond Traffic: Trends and Choices” study explores the impact on our transportation network that can be expected with a growing population, surging freight volumes, and technological innovations.  I commend the Secretary for adding his powerful voice to the dialogue on how we will tackle the transportation and infrastructure challenges of the future.

In addition, Congress is facing the pressing need to address long-term reauthorizations for various programs under the jurisdiction of this Subcommittee.  The budget includes the funding framework for the Administration’s six-year $478 billion “GROW AMERICA Act” surface transportation authorization proposal.  For the fourth year in a row, the budget proposes to shift nearly all of the surface transportation programs to the mandatory side of the budget.  I would note that while such a shift may provide long-term funding predictability, it is outside the jurisdiction of this committee. 

Now, let me get to the issue of the day.  The Department of Transportation request for the upcoming year is nearly $95 billion, which is $22 billion, or 31 percent, above the FY 2015 enacted level.  The budget emphasizes freight networks and improved delivery of goods and commerce, and provides some incentives to identify innovative solutions to congestion and safety problems.  The budget proposal also includes major increases for our highway, transit, and rail programs to lessen our significant infrastructure capital backlog and meet increasing demands.  Let me point out a few highlights.

The request would provide $3.25 billion for Capital Investment Grants to help communities develop or expand light rail, subway, commuter rail and bus rapid transit projects, and would invest nearly $5 billion for intercity and passenger rail programs.  It would increase funding to $1.25 billion for the popular TIGER program, grants that provide DOT a unique opportunity to invest in multi-modal and multi-jurisdictional, shovel-ready projects that promise to achieve critical national objectives. 

In addition, the request continues the Department’s support for new technologies, such as the implementation of NextGen, which will modernize air traffic control by shifting from a ground-based to a satellite-based system. 

I want to emphasize that with emerging transportation safety issues such as the movement of energy products, the integration of unmanned aerial vehicles, and the need to track passenger air flights and detect downed planes and flight data, safety oversight and enforcement is a critical priority.  I am pleased that the request includes additional safety positions in the areas of aviation, transit, rail, pipelines and highway safety. 

We know that our infrastructure is aging.  We know that greater capacity and choices in our transportation network will improve the movement and safety of people and goods.  And we know that investing in transportation and infrastructure creates jobs and improves our global economic competitiveness.

However, as I mentioned at yesterday’s hearing with HUD, the existing budget environment – namely, the Budget Control Act – will force difficult funding choices.  This is self-inflicted damage, prompted by the House leadership’s refusal to address the real drivers of the deficit.  Instead nearly all deficit reduction efforts have been focused on discretionary programs, and this has severely limited our ability to invest in our nation’s infrastructure.  At the very least, we need a new budget agreement that eliminates the chokehold of sequestration.  Even with that, we will be challenged to provide adequate funding for our nation’s critical transportation needs.

Mr. Secretary, I look forward to your testimony and to working with you on these important issues and programs.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman and I yield back.