National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission

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Final Report - Volume I: Recommendations

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Supplemental Views of Commissioner Francis X. McArdle

Let me begin by affirming my support for the work of the Commission and the staff that supported our efforts over the past two years.  I accept with only one exception the findings and recommendations of the Commission.  I believe that the document ably frames the choices that lay before the nation in surface transportation and makes a series of recommendations that, if adopted, will provide the most robust underpinnings possible for the American economy over the next fifty years.

I take only one exception to the recommendations of the Commission.  I believe that the issue of energy security requires that we move as a nation much more rapidly to the use of centrally- generated power in transportation and non-petroleum fuels and away from our reliance on petroleum based fuels for transportation.  We now rely on petroleum fuels for 97% of our transportation power.  I believe that leaves the nation much too vulnerable to disruptions in supply and volatility in price over the next fifty years.  Central generation of electricity gives us choices in fueling that we don’t now have with our dependence on petroleum.  In addition to the provisions of the Commission’s recommendations in this area, I would urge the Congress to consider raising the federal share for state and local investments in electrified mass transit to 95%, from the 80% share recommended in our report for communities willing to create the land use patterns that will support such investments.  I believe that a higher federal share will lead more communities to make the choice for electrified mass transit in their pursuit of mobility and growth objectives and will thus contribute to both better mobility and a higher degree of energy independence.

I would also urge the Congress to fully address the issue of what it will take to turn the additional dollars recommended by the Commission into productive investments, a task which is beyond the work done by the Commission.  The Commission is recommending that the nation almost triple the amount now being invested in surface transportation.  I concur with the recommendation.  But I am also acutely aware that it is not enough to just make more money available.  We must also create the additional capacity in the public agencies, design community and the construction community to make certain that these additional funds buy us the vitally needed additional surface transportation capacity at the lowest possible cost and as quickly as possible.

The market alone will not take care of the supply of heavy construction companies and workers to match the newly available funds.  We will need to systematically increase the numbers of professional engineers that our schools and universities produce and we must stimulate the development of both the entrepreneurs and the skilled craftsmen and women that will build the projects that the engineers design.  We are asking every level of government to transform the way they think about surface transportation systems and performance.  We also need to make sure that the human resources and professional tools are in place to allow those levels of government to carry out the new missions that we wish them to assume.

I urge the Congress to task the National Academy of Engineering to review the demands created by our recommendations on the heavy construction industry in the United States and the infrastructure agencies of our nation and to make recommendations on what will be needed in the way of additional research, education, scholarships, and financial support to assure that the facilities that the Commission knows are needed over the next fifty years are there when the demand for them is there.

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