Reps. Rahall, Mica, Capito
The House Transportation Committee held its first field hearing, and then held its first listening session, in a series of meetings to learn stakeholders' ideas for the next surface transportation bill. Both meetings were in West Virginia.

Speakers included representatives of state and local governments, contractors, and business.

Interesting tidbits from the meetings:

Ranking Minority Member Nick Rahall said he "envisions reauthorization legislation containing about half the money" compared to last year's draft $500b bill, and that the lower amount won't even maintain current needs.

Public private partnerships can be a good approach but won't help some states. WV State DOT Director Paul Mattox noted that due to the West Virginia terrain "our construction costs are too high and our traffic loads too low," said Mattox, "making it a challenge for us to attract private partners" who would build new highways in exchange for toll revenues.

There are other approaches that can save money and time, Mattox explained, citing the "combining planning and construction bids into single "design-build" contracts as a way the state is saving money on road work. He said more than $20 million was saved on the U.S. 35 upgrade alone."

Transit is important also, even in rural states, Mattox observed. “Many West Virginians, particularly in the rural areas, are transit-dependent and utilize these services to get to work, the doctor, shopping and to take care of the necessities of life." This comment from a State DOT Director reflects the belief of most State DOTs and runs counter to the erroneously claims constantly promoted by some interest groups that state DOTs care only about roads.

One construction company executive commented on the growing mantra of doing more with less: "If we continue doing more with less, soon we'll be doing nothing." Another executive noted that "We need a comprehensive bill passed, so we can know what to expect and make informed decisions on things like what equipment to buy."

Rahall addressed the controversy of earmarking: “I strongly believe that an elected representative knows his or her district better than an unelected bureaucrat in Washington, or even the President of the United States,” Rahall said. “If we were to eliminate such a process as earmarking, we would be empowering those unelected bureaucrats in Washington and/or the President of the United States.”

Sources:

"Highway funding woes bring hearings to state," Charleston Gazette

"Beckley hosts U.S. House transportation hearing," The Register-Herald

Image: (Kenny Kemp, Charleston Gazette)

Posted On 2/15/2011 08:02:00 AM by Larry Ehl |

edit post