1st Transportation Convention - Washington, DC


Remarks for James S. Simpson, Administrator, Federal Transit Administration

1st Transportation Convention
Washington, D.C.

 I’m pleased to be here today on behalf of President Bush and DOT Secretary Mary Peters.

Our transit and transportation infrastructure is at a serious crossroads in the United States.

Now more than ever, we need safe, efficient roadways and transit systems that keep people and our economy moving. . . but we’ve fallen seriously behind in our ability to invest in, maintain, and enhance this infrastructure at the federal, state, and local levels.

Where will the money come from to protect these vital assets?

The Department of Transportation calculates that we need roughly $22 billion a year to improve the condition and operation of our nation’s transit systems through 2024. That level is 70 percent higher than all transit capital spending in 2004.

Construction and material costs are going up rapidly – such as oil, copper, iron, and zinc.

Meanwhile, our federal cash cow   --  the Highway Trust Fund   --  is drying up. By the end of 2009, the fund’s deficit will be more than 3 billion dollars. The mass transit portion of the fund is expected to have a negative balance by 2012.

Many state and local governments are facing serious budget shortfalls, so it’s unrealistic to expect them to foot the bill.

The truth is we’ve reached a tipping point. . . and relying on business-as-usual just isn’t going to cut it anymore. . . . We can’t expect 20th century solutions to solve 21st century problems.

Bottom line: We need to find fiscally responsible solutions that work for all Americans.

FTA has a very important role to play to help address these problems.

The Bush Administration has made serious commitments to funding transit.

Since January 2001, the Bush Administration has signed 22 New Starts Full Funding Grant Agreements, worth nearly $9 billion, with local transportation authorities around the country to help jump-start or enhance vital bus and rail projects.

Looking at the big picture. . . Our fiscal 2008 budget included $9.5 billion for public transportation  --  an all-time high  --  with increases provided for most transit programs.

For FY09, the President has requested $10.1 billion for FTA. That includes significant increases for our New Starts program, for transit in rural areas, rail modernization, and other efforts.

We owe it to American taxpayers to be excellent stewards of these funds.

We do that, in part, by scrutinizing the risks on every major capital transit project that comes to us for funding. . .

Our new cost forecasting models help us make more accurate predictions about a project’s actual costs versus the estimates.

This approach helps us to ensure that the projects we fund are completed on time, and on budget. . . and that we fund the projects most likely to succeed.

We’re also looking to states, our grantees, and the private sector to participate financially and creatively.

For example, we’re considering ways to reward high-performing transit agencies that meet ridership and cost-saving goals.

We’re encouraging local transit agencies to lease or sell federally financed land to private developers, as a way to spur economic development near transit hubs.

And we’re supporting public-private partnerships that can finance transit needs for future generations.

These partnerships have the potential to combine the best of both worlds to effectively and efficiently lower costs. . .  spread risk. . .  and decrease build times for transit systems.

We’re also encouraging local governments to explore congestion pricing on their roadways.

I know this is controversial in Texas… but it is gaining support in many states, including Arizona, New York, and Virginia.

Traffic congestion is costing the U.S. economy nearly $80 billion a year. . .  We can’t let it get the better of us. . .   Like it or not, tolling is going to be part of the mix.

It’s absolutely essential that we invest our limited transit dollars wisely. . .and look for new and innovative ways to finance transit for future generations.

Federal and local governments, transit agencies, and the private sector can and must work together to achieve this.

We need market-based solutions as well as government leadership. 

And so we’ve got to pledge that we’re going to find ways to make transit and transportation better. . . make it sustainable. . . and enable our citizens to have the mobility and freedom they need to help the United States maintain its position as a fierce global competitor.

Thank You.