Surface Transportation: Preliminary Observations on Efforts to Restructure Current Program Page: 4 of 22
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transportation system over the past several decades. The result is
apparent: increasing number of hours spent inching along clogged roads
and highways, especially at rush hours and other times of peak demand.
The economic implications are significant, ranging from wasted fuel and
time as cars idle in traffic to increased costs for businesses as the system
grows more unreliable. In addition to burdening the economy, congestion
can harm the environment and health of the nation's citizens.
Addressing these challenges is complicated by the breadth of the nation's
surface transportation network-encompassing highway, transit, and rail
systems and ports that are owned, funded, and operated by both the public
and the private sectors. Moreover, surface transportation policy decisions
are inextricably linked with aviation, economic, environmental, and energy
policy concerns. In addition, the federal government's financial condition
and fiscal outlook are worse than many may understand.4 Specifically, the
federal budget is on an imprudent and unsustainable path-heightening
concern about the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund because other
federal revenue sources may not be available to help solve the nation's
current transportation challenges. Addressing these challenges requires
strategic and intermodal approaches, effective tools and programs, and
coordinated solutions involving all levels of the government and the
private sector. Yet in many cases, the government is still trying to do
business in ways that are based on conditions, priorities, and approaches
that were established decades ago and are not well suited to addressing
21st century challenges. Consequently, we have called for a fundamental
reexamination of the nation's transportation policies and programs.5
My remarks today focus on (1) principles to assess proposals for
restructuring the surface transportation program and (2) our preliminary
observations on the Commission's recommendations. My comments are
based on our ongoing work for the Ranking Member of this Committee,
the Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee,
Senator DeMint, as well as a body of work that we have completed over
4GAO, Long-Term Fiscal Outlook: Action Is Needed to Avoid the Possibility of a Serious
Economic Disruption in the Future, GAO-08-411T (Washington, D.C.: Jan. 29, 2008) and
Fiscal Stewardship: A Critical Challenge Facing Our Nation, GAO-07-362SP (Washington,
D.C.: January 2007).
5See GAO, Performance and Accountability: Transportation Challenges Facing Congress
and the Department of Transportation, GAO-07-545T (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 6, 2007) and
21st Century Challenges: Reexamining the Base of the Federal Government,
GAO-05-325SP (Washington, D.C.: February 2005).
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United States. Government Accountability Office. Surface Transportation: Preliminary Observations on Efforts to Restructure Current Program, text, February 6, 2008; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc294392/m1/4/: accessed September 22, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.