National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission

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Opening Statement by Frank Busalacchi Member, National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission

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Photo of Frank BusalacchiGood morning. I am Frank Busalacchi, Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. We are a multi-modal state agency that oversees policy and funding issues relating to highways, railroads, transit agencies, harbors and airports.

I am honored to serve on this Commission and am looking forward to working with and getting to know my fellow Commissioners.

I would begin by recognizing the vision of Congress in creating this Commission. Putting together the last reauthorization bill, they understood the need for new thinking on transportation policy issues. They have chosen Secretary Mineta to lead us, and the Secretary’s leadership will be critical to all of us in achieving success.

As a state DOT Secretary, I face the transportation needs of my state on a daily basis. In the end, identifying the nation’s needs will be the easy part of this Commission’s charge. How we prioritize these needs and how we propose their funding will constitute our most difficult decisions. We will need to decide on short and long-term solutions.

Our mission is critical. States are reducing their planned transportation budgets in response to dismal revenue projections, increasing project costs and high energy costs. These cutbacks are occurring at the same time that transportation needs in every mode are growing.

And how do we pay for it all? None of us like taxes. Some may have the viewpoint that among the modes, the highway system is what we should fund first. Some of us may disagree on private, or even foreign ownership of public infrastructure. All of this may be true, but what is important to this Commission’s success is this: Can we listen to one another? Can we learn from each other? Will we have good, independent analyses on which to base our decisions? Will we look at the issues from all viewpoints? The answer to these questions will determine our success.

We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to address and come together in creating solutions to the current stalemate on funding the nation’s multi-modal transportation system.

Transportation is the economic engine of our country. I look around this table and see the faces of those whose livelihood depends on our transportation system. You know how important transportation is to the success of your business. You understand what needs to be accomplished. You know it won’t be easy.

Our view must be broad, it must be multimodal and it must be national. That is our charge. But in addition to thinking through these issues and identifying solutions, we also need to make having a dialog with the citizens of this nation a part of our work.

While we need to talk with transportation experts, we also need to listen and learn from the stories of our citizens. Our citizens have transportation needs that are not being met. Those stories need to inform our work. I am pleased to see that Secretary Mineta’s schedule of meetings will take us out of Washington D.C. I hope these meetings will give us ample opportunity to talk about transportation issues with the public.

Once we’ve done a thorough job of that, we need to get back out there and explain what we want to do, why we want to do it, and how it will affect them in their daily lives.

We cannot accomplish our mission alone. Having the people behind us will help strengthen our recommendations as we present them to Congress. It’s important to remember it is Congress that will ultimately choose whether or not to implement our solutions.

I look forward to listening and learning from all of you. We each bring our unique experiences and perspectives to this table. With an environment that encourages free and frank discussion, sound analysis and a good work plan, I think we can accomplish our charge.

Thank you and I look forward to the challenging work that lies ahead.

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