As the summer travel season heats up, Members of Congress explore the state of our roads, rails and skyways, and discuss the future of alternative fuels.
There are few people today who would argue against the value of constructing Americas Transcontinental Railroad. The ribbon of steel that bound us together as a nation like never before cost $50 million at the time it was built. In todays dollars, one estimate pegs the cost of that project at $900 million still a pretty good deal. As a catalyst for almost every sector of our economy for the next century, it was the deal of deals.
The airline business is one of the most volatile industries, and the past three years have illustrated this fact all too well. The price of oil has fluctuated from the $147 per barrel of a roaring economy to the $40 per barrel of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. A major merger was completed and another has been proposed. Consumer issues have been major news. Airlines have cut capacity and instituted a variety of new fees in an effort to make ends meet, and several airlines have not made it.
Stepping into an air traffic control tower in the United States today is like stepping into a time machine. The equipment used to guide aircraft across the most crowded airspace in the world isnt much different from when Gerald Ford was president, the Concorde was just being introduced into service and Viking I first landed on Mars.
America has the greatest freight rail network in the world. Our system is the most efficient of its kind and essentially relies on no subsidies from the federal government. More than a century ago, Americas railroads ushered in the great advancements in industry that sparked Americas emergence as an economic power on the world stage. Americas railroads revolutionized transportation, gave promise to freedom of movement and made business more efficient.
The expansion of passenger, high-speed and freight rail is critical to the economic growth of the United States. As chairman of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, my goal is to have high-speed, intercity passenger and commuter rail lines connecting nationwide to enhance and improve our systems of transportation.
At approximately 3:30 p.m. on a Friday a few months ago, I was driving home from the Knoxville Airport, having just flown in from Washington. I was on an interstate connector with most of the fairly heavy traffic going 60 or 70 mph. I looked down to change two or three channels on my radio. When I looked back up, the pickup truck in front of me had slowed dramatically.
Picture this: You are a hardworking mother with a 2-year-old son in upstate New York, and you are pregnant with twins. One late winter morning you say goodbye to your husband as he heads out the door on another truck run. This particular run finds the rig filled with milk, and the destination is South Carolina. You have said goodbye to him hundreds of times before. Only this time, he doesnt come back.
The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico will ultimately be remembered as one of the worst environmental and economic tragedies in American history. There could be no clearer call to action to examine new policies to alleviate our addiction to oil.
Transportation contributes about 28 percent of our nations greenhouse gas emissions, and as the number of vehicle miles traveled per person continues to rise, strategies that eliminate vehicle trips should be a component of our energy policy. One important way to do that is to use technology to encourage telework and reduce the American workers need to commute.
Planes, trains, automobiles and traffic we have it all in Marylands 2nd Congressional district. The district is in the heart of the state and is home to some of Marylands biggest economic engines the Port of Baltimore, Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Fort Meade and the National Security Agency, the largest employer in Maryland. It also includes neighborhoods in Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Harford counties, and the city of Baltimore.