FLOOR SPEECH ON TRANSPORTATION ENHANCEMENTS
I rise today to oppose the McCain Amendment and let me give you three reasons why. First, jobs. Second, the Transportation Enhancement Programs help our traveling public. It’s what they want and what they need. Third, there’s a safety issue.
First on jobs, let me point out that the Transportation Enhancement Program represents 1.5% of the Annual Federal Service Transportation funds—a relatively small amount of the total pie. But it’s interesting that the programs yield more jobs per dollar spent than the funds that are used for the traditional transportation programs. So on a jobs basis we actually get more jobs from a lot of the projects that are in the Transportation Enhancement Program.
Secondly, let me discuss the type of programs we’re talking about. We’re talking about bicycle paths and safe scenic pull-off points. It’s these types of projects that we’re talking about that could be jeopardized by the McCain Amendment. I know my colleague from Alaska talked yesterday about the safety issue, but let me just underscore that. Today, there are an increased number of fatalities related to bicyclists and pedestrians. Fourteen percent of roadway fatalities involve pedestrians or cyclists, and two-thirds of these accidents occur on federal highways. Accidents with pedestrians result in far more serious injuries. While motorists’ fatalities are on the decline, pedestrian and cyclist fatalities are on the rise.
We should have pull-offs where people can look at scenic vistas. In my home state of Maryland, we are constructing the Harriet Tubman Scenic Byway so that people can see firsthand where Harriet Tubman operated the Underground Railroad. These are narrow roads, and we have a lot of commercial traffic as well as people who just want to view the scenery. The State of Maryland should have the flexibility of using these Transportation Enhancement Funds in order to do what the traveling public wants them to do, and that is to provide a safe experience for the motorists to be able to enjoy our highways. That’s what the Transportation Enhancement Program allows our states to be able to do. The McCain Amendment would jeopardize those funds.
The Transportation Enhancement Program offers flexibilities to our states to be able to provide the whole array of transportation options. It’s a very small part of the overall transportation budget. It provides those enhancements that the traveling public wants and needs. It creates jobs and it allows for greater public safety. So for all those reasons I would urge my colleagues to reject the McCain Amendment.