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Public Papers - 1991

Remarks to American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials in Dallas, Texas

1991-12-18

Ray, thank you very much for that introduction. It's nice to see the former AASHTO Presidents Hal Rives and Kermit Justice; AASHTO Vice President Wayne Muri; Frank Francois, the director. And I really must acknowledge somebody that's very special to this occasion, and to thank the new Chief of Staff in the White House, but the Secretary of Transportation just gone out of office, Sam Skinner, who is with me here someplace. Over here: Sam. I know that everyone realizes what he's had to do with all of this. Acting Secretary of Transportation Busey is with us, the admiral. And, out in the audience, of course, I want to single out our good friends from the Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

It is great to see so many familiar faces here, including many, as Ray mentioned, who were with us in Washington this summer. I can't help but remember Yogi Berra's great words, you've all heard it, ``Deja vu all over again.'' Here we are.

I also want to single out the Members of the Congress that are with us today because, as I said out at the site, this isn't a Republican bill or a Democrat bill, or a liberal or conservative; it is an American achievement. And the Members of Congress that are with us today deserve special credit from the American people for their leadership, for their stick-to-it-iveness in getting this legislation passed. So I salute them, the ones I see over here, and I'm sure there may be others scattered through the audience.

Yogi Berra, he always had a way with words, as I told you. But since you and I met in the Rose Garden last June a lot of things really have happened, the most important for you, the first stirrings of a real revolution in transportation.

Earlier today, as I mentioned, not far from here, I signed the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act. We've got to get a better name for this thing -- [laughter] -- but that's a law that will bring our transportation policy into the 21st century and will let us build, literally, a road to the future.

This law culminates more than 2 years of hard work by our administration, and it illustrates my strategy for getting things done: First, define a mission and accomplish it. Early on, we defined our mission: To lay the foundation for the most significant revolution in American transportation history. We understood from day one that America can't move ahead in the international marketplace any more rapidly than its infrastructure will allow. Ideas fly around the globe at the speed of light because the infrastructure can handle the traffic. We need that kind of competitiveness in surface transportation. After all, mobility is the lifeblood of the modern economy.

Second point: Don't define your missions in isolation. We pursued this law because it moves us closer to our three top domestic priorities: jobs, jobs, and jobs.

Our national transportation policy begins with a big dose of common sense. It acknowledges that you don't get anywhere in a traffic jam. A worker can't do much for the economy, the family, or for the community by sitting on a highway listening to the radio. A vital piece of equipment trapped on a truck, trapped in traffic, won't do much for the factory that needs it. And a loved one rushing for an airport can't rejoin the family if the backups on the expressway or the mass transit system put everything in gridlock.

You have to move to improve. And let's face it, we're not moving as fast as we should.

Last week, we had a distinguished visitor at the White House, Jay Leno. [Laughter] And he did a little comedy performance there with Marlin Fitzwater in the press room, and then he was over at the National Press Club. And I know that the press does a good enough job with political comedy on its own, but nevertheless. At any rate, he was making fun of a proposal to put microwave ovens in cars. That's right, microwave ovens so drivers can feed themselves while they wait. [Laughter] I think we better dedicate ourselves, as everybody here has, to a microwave-free future for our highways. [Laughter]

The reason's simple. Every hour wasted on overburdened transportation systems costs us a piece of our future. Congestion, congestion caused more than 8 billion hours of delay on our roads. And that's the amount of time 4 million workers spend on the job each year.

In other words, Americans nationwide waste more time each year in traffic delays than workers spend on the job at all our auto companies, all our electronic companies, all our textile companies, all our lumber companies, and all our furniture manufacturers combined. And people wonder why the AASHTO members get so worked up about the importance of their work.

The waiting exacts other costs, too. You're familiar with them: billion in wasted fuel expenses in our 39 largest metropolitan areas. And the point is simple: We cannot afford, or put it this way, we can't afford not to invest in transportation. No matter how much people might want to ignore the rest of the world, we must make a choice: Take the lead, or let others pass us by.

Well, I prefer to lead, and I demanded a national transportation strategy that builds a foundation for the future. And I wanted a transportation law that would address road and bridge needs around the country; a law that would complete important mass transit projects; a law that would encourage innovation in every aspect of our transportation network, from road construction to high- tech rail systems.

This law accomplishes that mission. It will establish a 155,000-mile National Highway System. Roads that will comprise only 4 percent of our total public road mileage, but that will carry 75 percent of our intercity truck traffic and 40 percent of our highway traffic. That is efficiency.

Our law accomplishes that mission. It will establish a 155,000-mile National Highway System. Roads that will comprise, as I say, 4 percent. This law also encourages States to build the roads they need, not the roads that some faraway central planner thinks that they ought to have. And that's just plain common sense.

The Highway System created by Dwight Eisenhower in '56, 1956, revolutionized American life forever. It spawned suburbs, cultivated more than 200 new centers of commerce and culture, edge cities, as they're called in the new book. Where bare fields stood 30 years ago, American enterprise now thrives, with office space and shopping centers, entertainment areas; regions that function as workplaces by day and then recreational hubs by night.

Our new transportation law will pump new life into these newest cities and support their further evolution. It will enhance great centers like this Dallas/Fort Worth area, where roads and rails have paved the way to more than 500,000 new jobs in the past decade alone.

This law encourages local governments to invest in innovations such as privately built toll roads. Construction on such a road will begin soon just outside of Washington, and that's just a beginning. Wall Street, they've begun to develop a brand-new market for financing privately built and operated infrastructure. Investors know a winner when they see it.

These roads will pay for themselves and, in addition, they can support other projects. Operators of the Dulles Toll Road will pay taxes, which can leverage even more transportation financing. In short, private projects get the most bang for the buck and give us a better shot at meeting our vast transportation needs. And that is innovation. And that is good government.

Consider other items, if you will, in our new transportation law:

It authorizes funds for an incentive program to prevent drunk driving and improve occupant safety, two very worthy goals, especially during the holiday season. And it provides billion to improve our new National Highway System.

It sets aside billion to fund a variety of highway and transit projects.

It simplifies the means by which truckers register their vehicles: Liability insurance, Interstate Commerce Commission operation authority, and mileage for State fuel tax payments. In so doing, it could save trucking companies billion this year.

Our law will help States meet their environmental responsibilities without stopping the wheels of progress. Our law will encourage exploration into new transportation technologies such as these high-speed rail systems.

And last, but certainly not least, our law will create good American jobs today and good American jobs tomorrow. And it will build a foundation for creating more good American jobs in the future.

The funding in the law will support more than 600,000 jobs in this fiscal year. But that's just the start. Private projects funded with this money will generate even more work for Americans. And as I've said all along, a good transportation network will support jobs that wouldn't exist otherwise. And that's the biggest benefit of this new law. It sets in motion projects that will give America the ability to move forward as never before.

I've instructed the Department of Transportation to get the money moving now. We will make available the vast majority of State money from the Highway Trust Fund. And we'll accelerate the release of 0 million for mass transit projects. I encourage you to do your part in making sure this money gets to its destination swiftly, gets used wisely, and helps Americans build the foundations for the next American century. And moreover, I'd like to challenge you all to look past the old ways of doing business and dare to innovate, to create new means of moving America forward.

Earlier today, out at that construction site not far from here, I stood there, and I thought of the incredible vigor of this region, all fueled by transportation infrastructure. A new kind of exploration and vigor assails the senses, the hustle and the bustle, the tornado of activity. And today I saw a domestic vision in sweat and toil, concrete and steel, not some abstract proposal but a program that will produce real results now.

This law -- and you all know this -- this law will not solve all our transportation challenges. It's not going to fill every pothole, build every road we require, mend every bridge, create all the new technologies we want to see. Let's face it, it would take billions and billions more to take care of every need. But this law puts us on the move. It commits real resources now. And it encourages the kind of innovation that we will need in the future.

This law will make a huge difference for all of us. It will help young fathers rush their wives to a delivery room. It will enable buses to ferry children safely and swiftly to school. It will help just-in-time manufacturers receive the parts they need when they need them. It will keep America where it belongs, in the passing lane.

Every American understands transportation's importance. Just think about the way we talk. When we talk about progress, we talk about getting things moving. When we talk about roads and rails, we call them arteries. Well, enough talk. Today, we act. We start improving our roads and bridges and railways, our equal opportunity escorts to the future. And so when we look back years from now to this landmark day for America's transportation, we'll be able to say: ``Mission defined. Mission accomplished.''

Thank you. And may God bless you in your work, and may God bless our great country, especially at this time of year. Thank you all very, very much.

Note: The President spoke at 12:15 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to A. Ray Chamberlain, president, and Francis B. Francois, executive director of AASHTO.

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