Rep. Duncan: Reauthorization stalled because no one can agree

U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-TN), Highways and Transit Subcommittee Ranking Member, told his colleagues during a hearing on using innovative financing practices to deliver surface transportation projects that the main reason that reauthorization has been stalled is because Congress continues to agree to disagree.

Here’s his opening statement:

“This is an important hearing for this subcommittee. The reauthorization of the highway, transit, and highway safety programs has been stalled for almost a year now and that is largely due to the fact that we are unable to agree on how we will fund these programs in the future.

“Tax revenues are declining for all levels of government and everyone is being asked to do more with less. As a result, innovative financing methods will play a bigger role in the next surface transportation reauthorization bill than they have before.

“In the past, innovative financing has been associated with toll road projects. But in recent years transit projects and highway projects that do not include tolls have benefited from innovative financing.

“Today we will hear about Denver’s Union Station project which will utilize two USDOT loan programs, and we will hear about a tunnel project in Miami that uses innovative financing but does not include tolls.

“As the number of transportation projects that are financed with loans, bonding, or with private sector funding grow, there are important policy issues that must be addressed.

“We need to make sure that today’s governors and mayors do not leverage so much of their future federal funding that future governors and mayors do not have any federal money available to address the problems they will face.

“At the same time we do not want to give the federal government veto power over every financing decision made by a state DOT or a local transit agency.

“It will be difficult to strike the right balance between these two perspectives, but I believe that the witnesses today will provide us with valuable information that will help us move in the right direction.”

For a video of the hearing and for Duncan’s testimony, click here.