Rep. Johnson addresses the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee in 1st meeting for 115th Congress
Good morning Chairman Shuster and Ranking Member DeFazio.
I want to first express my gratitude in returning to this committee after a 6-year hiatus. I have always appreciated the important bipartisan work of this committee, and as the nation moves forward, the work of this committee becomes all the more crucial in ensuring America's ability to lead in the growing global economy.
I was last on this committee in the 112th Congress, and I appreciate and respect the work that is done here. The jurisdiction of the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee imposes a responsibility to remain competitive in an increasingly challenging global market.
I would therefore like to thank the chairman and ranking member for holding this hearing today to discuss the current transportation and infrastructure needs of our country. Nationwide, our roads and bridges are crumbling, making travel difficult for businesses and commuters. The congestion in major urban areas magnifies the costs for businesses that rely on our transportation infrastructure to move goods and services, and reduces the quality of life for commuters stuck in traffic. We must move swiftly to address these issues by putting Americans to work building a safe and reliable 21st century infrastructure.
As we debate funding initiatives in the 115th Congress, there should be a particular focus upon spurring economic development and supporting innovation in the transportation industry. President Trump campaigned upon the promise of building a modern infrastructure that would meet the demands of the American economy, but we must ensure that all citizens have the opportunity to benefit and prosper from any modernization. This should include ensuring that small business owners have a seat at the table to bid for federal procurement contracts as well as utilizing disadvantaged business enterprises, many of which operate and employ workers in economically distressed areas.
In addition to working to improve national transportation problems, I am eager to address the critical infrastructure needs of Georgia. Georgia is the transportation hub of the Southeast, with more than 1,200 hundred miles of interstate highways, deep-water seaports in Savannah and Brunswick and the busiest airport in the world, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. According to a recent report by the American Transportation Research Institute, Atlanta’s “Spaghetti Junction,” an intersection of Interstates 285 and 85 North in the metro Atlanta area, is the most congested freight bottleneck in the country. This convoluted expanse of highways has led to economic strain for businesses in the area due to congestion-related costs, as well as increased travel and maintenance costs for highway travelers. Federal investments should include funds supporting state efforts to add additional standard and HOV lanes to major highways in the metro Atlanta region as well as other major causeways throughout the state.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization will be an important issue that this committee will address this Congress. DeKalb-Peachtree Airport and the world’s busiest airport-Hartsfield-Jackson Airport employ thousands of constituents in Georgia’s Fourth Congressional District and facilitate international travel for millions of citizens annually. We must work together to pass a comprehensive FAA reauthorization that supports improvements to the air-traffic control system and investments in security for the safety of American flight passengers. It is important that we not only ensure the security of critical transit points such as Hartsfield-Jackson, but also work to promote efforts that allow for all airports to run more efficiently.
There should also be a greater focus on transportation equity -- ensuring that low-income Americans have access to safe and reliable transportation -- which will increase access to better jobs and economic empowerment. Current transportation spending programs have failed to benefit underserved communities because funding for public transit has been neglected.
Investment in public transit would create more options for those whose ability to travel to work, school, and entertainment is often severely restricted and sometimes impossible. According to the Economic Development Research Group, every $1 billion invested in public transportation capital/operations creates or supports: 36,000 jobs, $3.6 billion in business sales, and nearly $500 million in federal, state, and local tax revenues. Providing equal access to transportation means providing all Americans with an equal opportunity to achieve economic independence and resiliency.
It has been impressive to see the effect of public investment in high-speed rail systems by other countries around the world. Connecting towns and cities across the nation via a high speed rail network is an infrastructure investment that will result in the spread of economic prosperity to outlying areas of America.
As Ranking Member of the Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Subcommittee, I see many opportunities to work with Chairman Barletta on improving the economic condition of all Americans. We must authorize and appropriate regional commissions, such as the Southeast Regional Crescent Commission to create federal-state partnerships, as well as public-private partnerships, that spur economic development in our country’s most distressed areas.
I am committed to working with my colleagues and the Administration in a bipartisan manner to address these issues and to deliver real results for the American people. America deserves a modern transportation and infrastructure that gives us a competitive advantage in an increasingly global economy. It should not be delayed and way-laid by political shenanigans and chicanery.
Mr. Chairman, I look forward to the testimony of our witnesses and I look forward to working with the Committee to explore ways where we can bring our country’s transportation and infrastructure into the 21st century for the benefit of all Americans.