Nearly 300 people packed the Columbus Club in Washington DC's Union Station this Wednesday (12/18) to hail five successful years of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) and to show support for protecting the bill's progressive principles when it is reauthorized next year. This event was held exactly five years after President Bush signed ISTEA. The event was hosted by local government and public interest organizations including the Surface Transportation Policy Project (STPP) and covered by C-SPAN in addition to many other media outlets. Featured speakers included USDOT Secretary Federico Pena, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY), House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Minority Member James Oberstar, (D-MN), House Surface Transportation Subcommittee Chairman Thomas Petri, (R-WI), FHWA Administrator Rodney Slater, EPA Assistant Administrator David Gardiner, Amtrak President Tom Downs, and others.
These speakers praised the law for the changes it represented over previous federal transportation policy. Rep. Oberstar said "We're in the post-Interstate era, we took a decisive turn in 1991 (with the passage of ISTEA)." Secretary Pena applauded cooperation between various levels of government brought about by ISTEA. FHWA Administrator Rodney Slater said that ISTEA "began the process of breaking down the walls...opening up the planning process and offering people choices." Senator Moynihan, one of ISTEA's principal architects, explained the law's changes in a historical context; "It took 30 to 35 years to finally recognize the notions of pricing and intermodalism in a transportation bill...to think out the best use of transportation money and the effects of our transportation projects on communities."
Speakers sounded the call for not just preserving but strengthening the law. Rep. Petri (R-WI) said "Five years ago, ISTEA set a new course and revolutionized the way we think about transportation. Our challenge next year is to build on ISTEA's success and continue to improve the program to meet the transportation needs of today and into the future." Judge Floyd G. "Buddy" Villines, representing the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (AMPO), noted that any talk of significant changes to ISTEA is premature. "ISTEA is still an infant," he explained, "let's come back in five years when it's even stronger."
The event was also marked by the release of STPP latest publication Five Years of Progress: 110 Communities where ISTEA is Making a Difference. USDOT Secretary Federico Pena praised the book and offered the many case studies it describes as evidence that ISTEA has represented progress. Authors Matthew Raimi and Joe DiStefano were recognized for their work. Secretary Pena released "How To Keep America Moving -ISTEA- Transportation for the 21st Century" a report based on input from DOT's ISTEA forums this year. STPP released a special issue of Progress for the event.
Meanwhile, 15 governors echoed the call of the event for protecting ISTEA in a letter sent to key transportation officials. The letter states; "We, the undersigned Governors, urge you to reauthorize ISTEA without significant change and to reject proposals to overhaul it...we urge you to work with us to maintain the national role in transportation policy." In pressing for the preservation of ISTEA, the Governors argue: "States, regional and local governments have invested heavily in making ISTEA work. This investment should not be wasted." Signing the letter were governors from the following states: DE, PA, NJ, NY, CT, RI, NH, VT, ME, MA, PR, WV, MD, WA & IL.For copies of "Five Years of Progress" and copies of the Governors' letter on ISTEA, contact Sheron Jones at STPP, 202.939.3468 or via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Copies of the DOT report are not yet available. There will be a notice in Transfer when they become available. For more information about the event contact STPP, 202.939.3470. 2/97
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