We have a special treat to share with you.
Rep. James Oberstar, outgoing chair of the House transportation committee, has written a letter to you and the coalition members of Transportation for America that we'd like to share.
Rep. Oberstar has been a tireless advocate for transportation during his 18 terms in Congress, working to build a 21st century transportation system that works better, saves money, gives us more options, keeps us safer and gets us where we're going.
After you read his letter, click here to leave a message for Chairman Oberstar that we'll get to him right after the holidays. We want him to hear from our thousands of supporters that his hard work has not gone unnoticed. We'll see you all in 2011. Happy Holidays. Now on to his letter.
Deputy Communications Director
Message to the Transportation for America Coalition from Hon. James L. Oberstar, Chairman, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
As I prepare to end my 36-year career in Congress, I want to take this opportunity to thank the millions of concerned Americans who have supported my efforts to create a new, bipartisan vision for our Nation’s infrastructure.
The Transportation for America Coalition has played a key role in educating and activating Americans on the vital need to create an innovative, robust blueprint for the country’s transportation future.
Congestion is choking our roadways. Our bridges are in dire need of repair, rehabilitation, or replacement. Transit options are inadequate or nonexistent in most communities, and our passenger rail system pales in comparison to those in Europe and Asia. Our economy is suffering for it. Our standing in the world marketplace is slipping. If we can’t move people to work and goods to market, we will never recover.
At the same time, we need to create and sustain good, family-wage jobs. As the stimulus provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has proven, investment in our transportation infrastructure will do that.
We must approach our transportation holistically. We can no longer afford to focus separately on highways, transit, and rail. The Department of Transportation must develop a culture of intermodalism, one where DOT agencies share information, ideas, and initiatives.
If we are to reform our Nation’s transportation system, we must also address the issue of funding. The fuel tax, the backbone of our surface transportation revenue stream, has not been raised since 1993. A dollar today does not buy what it did in 1993, and this is especially true of construction costs, which have increased far beyond the rate of inflation.
Voters and legislatures in several states have elected to raise their state and local transportation taxes, and that is commendable. However, if we are to avoid a state-by-state patchwork of highway conditions and transportation systems and have a truly national transportation network, we must approach this issue on a national scale. This must be done by Congress.
While fuel taxes will remain the foundation of our transportation revenues for the foreseeable future, we must look beyond this source for sustainable funding. As Americans choose to burn less fuel, drive more efficient cars, and live in communities with better transportation options, fuel purchases will level off and eventually decline. New sources of revenue must be identified, developed, and phased in to supplement, and possibly eventually replace, the fuel tax as our primary source of transportation funding.
New leadership comes to the House Committee on Transportation in 2011, and the effort to craft a new, six-year surface transportation authorization bill will begin anew. It will be up to you in the Transportation for America Coalition, and informed, motivated groups and individuals throughout the country, to make your voices heard again, to help steer Congress to making the right choices for America.
Good luck and God bless.
James L. Oberstar, M.C.
Flickr photo by Bike Portland
Click here to leave a message of thanks for Rep. Oberstar that we'll deliver to him in early 2011.