American Road &
Transportation Builders Association
National Conference on Transportation and the Economy
June 25, 2002
Governor Patton’s Talking Points
Good afternoon…It is a pleasure and honor to be with many
of the country’s transportation leaders today to discuss what I feel has
become a crisis in our country. Unfortunately
this crisis is a quiet one…virtually unrecognized by the majority of the
population. In fact it’s
generally only recognized when terrible crashes occur or when businesses and
individuals find themselves located in areas where infrastructure has not been
developed or when people find the commute to work unbearable.
But folks we cannot let the silence fool us…we are in a serious
transportation crisis…both an immediate crisis and a long-term crises.
It is very appropriate that we take time to ponder and
reflect on the development of our nation’s transportation system during the
100th anniversary of the American Road and Transportation Builders
Association. Anniversaries remind
of us of where we came from and hopefully provide some hint of where we need to
It is also very appropriate that we take time during this
anniversary celebration to honor an individual who is the father of America’s
interstate highway system…President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Recognizing President Eisenhower as the “Transportation Person of the
20th Century” reinforces the role our great highway system has
played and continues to plays in the lives of all Americans.
Eisenhower had a vision of a mobile society…a society with a transportation
system that provided a network for economic prosperity and an improved quality
of life. Being a
military leader, Eisenhower understood that an army and a society could only
succeed with a solid dependable logistics network.
This vision created the American interstate system…which in my opinion
is the greatest public works accomplishment of the 20th century.
But as I said before this great interstate system is in a crisis.
The road system that all of us in this room depend on daily to help us
make the connections to our jobs…to our families…to hospitals…to soccer
games…to almost every aspect of our daily lives…this road system is
tired…overused…and inadequate to meet the demands of our modern society.
Additionally, due to a combination of several factors that could not be
foreseen when the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st century
(TEA-21) was enacted…we are in the midst of a short-term funding
crisis. The formula used to
determine federal highway funding has resulted in an unprecedented 27 percent
reduction for Fiscal Year 2003…This is a reduction in critical road funds at
the same time the majority of states are experiencing rapidly shrinking state
revenues and distressed budgets.
Transportation is one of my passions partly because I am a
life-long resident of Appalachian Kentucky…a region of our nation that seemed
to be destined to a life of poverty because it had been by-passed by the
interstate highway system during the last half of the 20th century…
Bypassed until the federal government provided us with a lifeline called
the Appalachian Regional Developmental Highway program.
I know first hand the negative effects not having a good transportation
system has on a community. I
witnessed friends and families being deprived of the education, economic status
and quality of life that was being enjoyed by the rest of the nation…In fact
it will take us twenty…thirty or even forty years before we are able to
overcome the 100 years of decline this region experienced…due in part to a
lack of an effective transportation system.
Having roots in eastern Kentucky has enabled me to have a vision for the
state that will put Kentucky on a course that will move us above the national
average and make us a center of excellence in 20 years.
This vision has been a guiding principle for all of the initiatives
we’ve undertaken during the past six years.
And transportation plays a very significant role in achieving this goal.
Since becoming Governor of Kentucky in 1995…I have been
personally involved in improving the efficiency and safety of Kentucky’s
highway system…as well as working with my fellow governors to secure the
appropriation of all the funds in the Highway Trust Fund to the construction of
roads and other transportation purposes. During
the reauthorization of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA),
I spearheaded the effort with my fellow governors to lead the T.R.U.S.T.
(Transportation Revenues Used Solely for Transportation) Coalition…which
succeeded in securing one of the most comprehensive highway funding spending
bills ever enacted by Congress. As you all know…TEA-21 provided a greater rate of return to
the states of our motor fuel and user taxes while increasing the equity of
distribution among the states. The
leadership of the nation’s governors in this effort was pivotal to its
success. As incoming Chair of the
National Governor’s Association…I am committed to working with my fellow
governors to once again take the lead next year during the reauthorization of
TEA-21. It is imperative to the
success of this country that we not loose any of the ground that was hard won
six years ago…and hopefully even to build upon those achievements to allow us
to meet the ever growing demands of our society.
The public transportation system of this nation is largely
the responsibility of state and local governments. Our states are responsible for the vast majority of the
maintenance of our nation’s roads and finance more than one-half of all public
investments in surface transportation. Governors
are on the front line when it comes to providing citizens with the safe and
efficient highway systems that they demand and deserve.
They are the ones who have to make the tough decisions and answer
directly to citizens. My fellow governors and I are dedicated to maintaining a
world-class transportation system and continuing the partnership with the
federal government. However we know
that the future of our country’s highway system depends on first…addressing
the current short-term funding crises and…second…by reauthorizing the
federal surface transportation program and the extension of the transportation
As governors we come face to face on a daily basis with the
challenges of a 50 year old highway system that is having an extremely difficult
time keeping pace with the demands of our mobile society.
Americans are dependent on highways…in fact they are a necessity in
order to survive both economically and socially.
When the original architects of the interstate designed our current
highway system they never envisioned what we have today.
They could not see that our highways would become rolling warehouses with
just-in-time delivery moving 11 billion tons of freight annually.
They could not begin to dream that our society would become so dependent
on the automobile that…owning a car would become as big of a necessity as
owning a home. And they could not
envision a country of two car…three…and even four-car families.
Our current system was designed for only 15% truck traffic
and a few thousand cars a day. Today
our highways carry anywhere from 40 – 80 percent in truck traffic and on major
interstates like I-75 in northern Kentucky near Cincinnati…150,000 vehicles a
day or more…In fact between 1990 and 2000 travel on America’s highways
increased 38% while freeway lane mileage increased only 8%.
Driving in this country has increased at a rate 5 times greater than road
capacity. And even more astounding is the fact that it is estimated that both
truck and passenger traffic is expected to double within the next 25 years.
Our transportation system is not keeping pace with the demand.
We have a society today that is dependent on our interstate
system…a dependence that is rapidly growing.
If we all woke up tomorrow and our interstate system was closed…our
country would literally shut down. Kentucky
experienced a taste of what this would be like in January of 1994 when we had a
record snowfall, blizzard conditions and minus 20 degree temperatures that
closed our highways and airports for @ 4 days.
Mother Nature literally brought travel through Kentucky to a complete
halt. It is
estimated that this brief shut down cost more than $300 million.
It shut down all major businesses and industries. Workers could not get
to their jobs…materials and supplies could not get to manufacturing plants and
stores…the state was literally closed for business.
Transportation is a basic need…and one we can no longer afford to
As governors we know first-had that our aging interstate system is
letting the people of this country down. First…it
is letting people down in terms of safety.
As transportation officials each of us has a responsibility to provide
the citizens of this country with a safe and efficient road system.
Yet every year in this country over 40,000 people die in highway related
crashes. Let’s look at some of
the other safety statistics…highway crashes are the number one killer of
children under the age of 12…and highway crashes cost this country over a $150
billion dollars every year.
But safety is not the only area in which we we are letting
our customers down. As I mentioned
before it is the responsibility of everyone in this room to provide not only a
safe transportation system…but an efficient one as well.
But every day in this country the average American spends over 30 minutes
in traffic congestion. Time that
could be better spent with their families…with their jobs…time controlled by
them…not our roads. Governors
know all to well how this congestion deeply affects our nation’s ability to
move goods and services, the quality of life of its citizens…and the health of
our economy. Traffic is growing in
all sizes of cities…even in our rural areas…but unfortunately there
doesn’t seem to be the space, money and public approval to add enough roads to
meet this growing demand.
As I mentioned earlier…we
are facing two crises…One a short term one due to an oversight with TEA-21
that has resulted in a 27% reduction on 2003 highway funds that needs to be
corrected immediately in order to allow states to execute their Fiscal Year 2003
budgets. Second…we need to begin
now to lay the groundwork for the reauthorization of TEA-21 next year.
In February I
testified before the Congressional Subcommittee on Highways and Transit urging
our federal lawmakers to move quickly to correct the unforeseen fiscal problem
with TEA-21 that has resulted in a reduction of federal highway funds for Fiscal
Year 2003. The Administration’s
budget proposal for fiscal year 2003 decreases transportation funding by $8.5
billion from the current year’s level. This
drop in funding is attributed to Revenue Aligned Budget Authority (RABA) which
is a statutory annual adjustment calculation of tax revenues that finances the
Highway Trust Fund. The result of
the negative RABA downwardly adjusted the states’ funding limitation to $23
billion for Fiscal Year 2003 from the TEA-21 guaranteed level of $27.7 billion
and the Fiscal Year 2002 $31.7 billion funding level.
This surprising situation is contrary to one of the primary objectives of
TEA-21…which was to maintain consistent federal highway funding from year to
year so that state transportation departments could plan efficiently and so that
the construction industry could operate efficiently without dramatic swings.
The other objective of TEA-21 was to secure the expenditure of all of our
transportation dollars on transportation projects instead of being used to
balance the budget or lessen the deficient. These objectives served us well
until we experienced an economic recession.
In fact funding levels remained consistent with an average annual
increase of about nine percent until Fiscal Year 2003.
governors joined me in a letter to the bipartisan leaders of the House and
Senate urging speedy congressional action on this issue.
Quick action is needed because our fiscal year begins next week…on July
1 which means states began planning their state and federal highway construction
program back in February and planned to go to contract beginning sometime in
July. As most of you know…they
will spend state money to pre-finance federally funded projects, expecting to
get reimbursed very early in the Federal fiscal year…late in October.
I urged the subcommittee to use the $19.3 billion unappropriated balance
in the Highway Trust Fund to maintain the level funding for this one year until
the quirks which have resulted in the reduced revenue have worked their way
through the system…then we can return to a “current revenue” expenditure
program which will be stable and very near the $31.7 billion level of the
current year. No decision has been
made to date but currently there are two bills under consideration…one in the
House and one in the Senate. The
House version calls for an additional $4.4 billion, which would bring us close
to the $27.7 billion, originally forecasted for 2003.
The Senate version calls for an additional $5.8 billion, which move us a
little closer to the $31.7 billion allocated in Fiscal Year 2002. Just this past
week the National Governor’s Association sent a letter to the Chair and
Vice-Chair of the Senate Economic Development Committee urging them to bring
their bill to the floor for consideration as soon as possible.
Right now we are
very much in a waiting game…states are trying to determine which projects to
halt…delay…or not to consider…the possible loss of $8.6 billion in federal
highway dollars will cost the economy as many as 360,000 jobs…which translates
to over 5,000 jobs in Kentucky. This
is a serious problem…especially considering the fragile nature of what we hope
is an economic recovery. These are
good paying jobs, among the best in the state.
Each of us in this room needs to put the pressure on our
legislators…particularly our Senators to move quickly on this legislation.
As I mentioned
before each of in this room has a real opportunity to significantly impact the
long-term future of the highway system during the TEA-21 reauthorization process
that will take place next year.
First it provides us with an opportunity to clean up our current funding
mechanism to ensure a more even flow of yearly federal highway dollars.
We will particularly need to ensure that the downward adjustment
triggered by RABBA is not used as a funding baseline for the lifetime of the
next surface reauthorization process.
reauthorization process provides us with the opportunity to develop creative
solutions to some of our outdated highway problems…similarly to what we did in
1997…At that time we chose to build a coalition around a common need instead
of trying to divide the same pie of money up in a different manner…We
creatively found a way to increase the size of the pie which made building a
consensus an easy task. Everyone
came out a winner.
I believe that the
reauthorization of TEA-21 along with other transportation related issues
including the reauthorization of AIR-21…many environmental issues relating to
transportation like air pollution and water quality…will make transportation a
critical if not a key focus for the National Governor’s Association next year.
As an engineer and a native of rural eastern Kentucky I understand the
importance of roads to economic development and quality of life. And I look
forward to providing leadership in this area as Chair of the NGA.
Some estimate that
this country’s transportation system needs are as large as $50 billion
annually for highways and $14 billion for transit just to meet the current
demands of our society. But funding
increases are not extremely popular these days.
While the majority of all states are experiencing road funding
crisis…they have had little success getting the populace to approve any type
of gas tax increase to help ease the shortfall.
We must also
examine other approaches that will help us stretch our highway dollars more
effectively. One very real
opportunity lies in streamlining the environmental approval process.
I recently heard FHWA Administrator Mary Peters say that the average
length of time for a major project involving 4 F properties is 13 years.
We must work diligently to reduce this number.
Not only can we not afford this project length in terms of dollars but in
servicing the public as well. Thirteen
years in today’s society is almost a lifetime.
Our world is changing quickly and businesses and citizens cannot wait 13
years for us to build a transportation solution to solve today’s traffic
congestion and safety problems. We
must work with Congress to improve our delivery of transportation projects by
streamlining the environmental permitting and approval process while enhancing
cooperation between state D.O.T.’s and federal government agencies to result
in better transportation and environmental decisions.
Our citizens do not care whose responsibility it is or who it is to
blame…they simply want timely, safe and efficient transportation solutions
while at the same protecting the environment.
It is important that the next surface transportation bill has a strong
environmental component that is balanced with state flexibility to meet those
environmental guidelines. I believe
that it is possible to build highway systems that promote both economic
development and the environment. We
do it everyday in Kentucky.
We have a few
examples of how current environmental policies can cost taxpayer’s needless
time and money in Kentucky. In
western Kentucky, an extension of our parkway was delayed while resource
agencies disagreed over the value of wetlands.
The perplexing feature of this “wetland” was that it was wet only one
month out of the year and dry the other eleven months.
In Central Kentucky we are often required to work project schedules
around trying to identify an endangered plant species called “Running Buffalo
Clover.” This type of clover is
only distinguishable from regular clover when it is in bloom for one or two
weeks out of each year. If you
don’t locate it in those two weeks, you will need to wait until the following
year to proceed with the work.
released by the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit
Administration concerning environmental streamlining would not simplify the
process. The National Governors
Association needs each of you to join us in urging Congress not to require new
administrative guidelines that will hinder the process since it would be a waste
of time and precious resources to delay projects for unnecessary and cumbersome
administrative processes. There are
already a multitude of Federal laws and regulations for which we must comply for
our highway projects. The Kentucky
Transportation Cabinet under the leadership of Secretary Codell is leading the
nation in the areas of environmental stewardship and historic preservation with
our context sensitive design solutions for our highway projects…and with our
smart growth policies for land use that embraces growth in a manner that
protects and preserves the state that we love.
We also have an
opportunity during the reauthorization process to improve the safety of our
highways by continuing to tie federal highway funding to safety issues…issues
like the passage of a primary seatbelt law.
You all know as well as I do that it is very difficult to get these types
of laws enacted by state legislators with a federal mandate or recommendation.
During the past 2002 legislative session in Kentucky we tried to get a
primary seatbelt law passed without any funding incentives and were
unsuccessful. However we were able in 2000 to pass the “Point .08” and
“Open Container” laws that had funding incentives attached to them.
We are putting this incentive money to good use with increased
enforcement on our roadways, safety improvements on high incident locations, and
with public education. These
incentives are the key to getting important safety legislation passed in states.
It is important to governors that the incentive “carrot” approach,
not the “stick approach be used for encouraging states to improve highway
Kentucky is proud
that it will assume a pivotal role during next year’s reauthorization process.
Both Secretary Codell in his role as Chair of AASHTO and I in my role as
Chair of the NGA will work as diligently as one of Kentucky’s famous pioneers
did when he blazed the Wilderness Trail through the Cumberland Gap in 1775. Daniel Boone’s courageous efforts opened up the west to the
rest of the country…and I hope our efforts will open up a new era of
transportation in this country.
Governor’s Association is committed to being a leader in the reauthorization
effort…joining organizations like the American Road and Transportation
Builder’s Association…the U.S. Chamber of Commerce…and the Association of
State Highway and Transportation Officials.
We must all join forces during the reauthorization process to ensure that
the decisions being made allow us to provide the citizens of this country with
the safe and efficient transportation system they deserve.
We must also begin to work together to educate the citizens of this
country of the role transportation plays in their lives and elicit their support
in solving these crises.