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Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood sat down with Roll Call Executive Editor Morton M. Kondracke last week to discuss, in his trademark plain-spoken way, the economic stimulus package, the highway reauthorization bill and myriad other issues related to the future of the nations vast transportation network.
After spending much of the early session debating the economic stimulus measure, which contained tens of billions of dollars for road and transit projects, Congress in the coming weeks will get to work on a massive transportation blueprint expected to cost hundreds of billions more over five years.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is preparing a new six-year authorization bill to guide the nations surface transportation program. At the same time, the national economy faces a crisis that it has not seen since the Great Depression.
By the end of September, Congress must enact a multiyear reauthorization of transportation programs that will help to build this nations infrastructure for the 21st century. Undertaking such a critical task without a comprehensive plan would be unthinkable. Imagine building a house or launching a business venture without a blueprint or set of plans.
As the new ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation and Housing and Urban Development, I am fully aware of the long list of national and local transportation priorities that await the consideration of Congress over the next several months following the commotion from the recent spending spree and various other bailout measures.
There is broad agreement, on both sides of the aisle, that when it comes to Americas transportation infrastructure, the time to act is now. Infrastructure investment is one of the best ways to stimulate our economy it creates American jobs and helps American businesses. The reauthorization of the surface transportation bill this year is an opportunity to put Americans to work and to make transportation investments that are good for the economy and the environment.
When President Dwight Eisenhower first conceived the interstate system more than 50 years ago, he envisioned a system to connect the nation and enhance national defense. The enormous economic benefits provided by the system were not fully understood for some time.
On Feb. 9, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) and I introduced H.R. 915, the FAA Reauthorization Act. This important legislation will provide the Federal Aviation Administration with the resources and support to fulfill its missions while investing in improvements to our air transportation system. The bill builds on our legislation from the 110th Congress, which passed the House but stalled in the Senate.
Unfortunately, like nearly all industries in the U.S. and around the world today, the aviation industry is experiencing a slowdown. Unlike many others, though, the airlines have been struggling for a while because of last years high fuel costs.
Americas current economic crisis has given Congress and the Obama administration an unprecedented opportunity to stimulate and strengthen local communities through investment in a critical, increasingly important form of transportation: bicycles.