May 8, 2012
Earlier today, U.S. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and U.S. Rep. John Duncan, Jr. (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Highways and Transit Subcommittee, made the following statements at the Surface Transportation Bill Conference Meeting:
“We all share a commitment to build our nation’s infrastructure, and this legislation must do so responsibly. It must be paid for, it must not raise taxes, it must not include earmarks, and it must not add to federal bureaucracy.
“In order to achieve this goal, we must include serious reforms of federal transportation programs to get projects moving and people back to work.
“Particularly in this current economic environment, there is no appetite to keep funneling money into programs in need of a major overhaul, unless we make necessary, meaningful reforms.
“I am concerned that the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund is at risk, however the solution to the Trust Fund solvency problem is not more deficit spending or General Fund transfers. The solution is major reform of programs, cutting wasteful spending, and reigning in the federal bureaucracy.
“Federal programs are broken when red tape bogs down major highway projects for up to 15 years, increasing project costs and leaving jobs behind. During the stimulus debacle, ‘shovel-ready’ became a national joke because it takes so long to get the bureaucratic approvals for a project. We must cut the red tape and streamline the project approval process.
“Programs are broken when they dictate to states and localities through set-asides and Trust Fund-draining programs how their returned gas tax revenue must be spent. In order to better focus our limited resources on the most critical projects and improvements, we must give states more flexibility, and we must significantly reduce the federal bureaucracy by consolidating or eliminating duplicative and unnecessary programs.
“All of my House Transportation and Infrastructure Conferees are committed to serious reform as part of any legislation we produce. Real reform is necessary for House Republicans to support funding a surface transportation bill.”
“Over the course of this conference, we will be dealing with a large number of policy issues that affects all aspects of our nation’s surface transportation system.
“One area that I’ve strongly supported is streamlining the project delivery process. Too much government bureaucracy and red tape can tie up infrastructure projects, delaying transportation improvements and increasing construction costs.
“According to the Federal Highway Administration, the project delivery process can take up to 15 years from planning through construction. This is simply unacceptable.
“Another analysis conducted by the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Commission found that a $500 million project that took 14 years to complete would see its cost double due to the impact of delays and inflation.
“I hope that this Conference Committee will be able to agree on real reforms to streamline the project delivery process.
“I believe that the Conference Report produced by this Committee must set hard deadlines for Federal agencies to approve and expedite highway and transit projects.
“These reforms must delegate more project approval authority to States and allow State environmental laws to be used in place of Federal laws where it makes sense.
“Also, we must simplify the approval process for projects within a facilities right-of-way.
“If we can agree to these common sense changes, I’m confident we can cut the time it takes to approve a project in half, thereby reducing the costs of transportation projects and delivering the economic and safety benefits of those projects to our nation in a more timely fashion.”