This morning I am in Atlanta – a city that knows what it means to be rebuilt and reborn – to unveil the Bush Administration’s comprehensive new transportation plan.
We propose to refocus, reform, and renew our approach to the nation’s highways and transit systems by completely overhauling the way U.S. transportation decisions and investments are made.
Any commuter, shipper, or business owner can tell you our current approach is broken, which is why we are proposing a clean break from the past. Our plan is intended to spur local, state, and federal debate about how best to incorporate the new reforms into the highway legislation Congress will begin work on this fall.
The plan starts by refocusing the nation’s transportation programs. The federal government will take responsibility for maintaining and improving the condition and performance of the Interstate highway system. These highways carry over 25% of the nation’s traffic and three quarters of the nation’s long-haul trucks. Making sure they are safe, well maintained, and un-congested must be a key federal priority.
Our plan confronts the growing problem of urban traffic by giving officials the flexibility to make investments based on what gets people where they need to go as quickly and as reliably as possible. If new subways, street cars, or bus routes represent the best investment, communities will have greater freedom – and significantly more resources – to pay for those projects.
We also refocus and redouble our efforts to make our roads and bridges as safe as possible using a strategic, data-driven approach. Our criteria will be clear: make our roads safer.
Our plan reforms the nation’s approach to transportation by consolidating the 102 various programs that have sprouted up over the past two decades. And we pilot changes to the federal review process because it shouldn’t take more than a dozen years to design and build new highway and transit projects.
We also begin the long overdue process of weaning ourselves from the gas tax. Our transportation policies must not contradict our national objective to reduce fossil-based fuel consumption. So we make it easier for states to create infrastructure banks, expand the use of federally backed transportation loans, and eliminate federal taxes the discourage facilitate investments in transportation projects.
And yes, we make it easer to implement road pricing, making it easier for states to take advantage of the over $400 billion in private-sector funds available worldwide for infrastructure investments. The idea is simple: have federal funds leverage new investments in transportation, instead of replacing them.
Finally, our plan will renew the nation’s transportation network by encouraging massive new investments in our Interstate highways – to expand roads and support new transit systems in the nation’s cities, to bring easier and quicker commutes, and to cut shipping times.
Most important, this plan will renew America’s belief in our transportation network.
Trying something new is never easy. But we must if we are going to keep our cities competitive and clean, if we are going to keep our economy vibrant and vital, and we must if we are going to get America moving again.