[Audio of Administrator Rogoff remarks (Windows Media)]
Well, thank you very much.
It’s important to remember that the year that BART opened its doors was the same year that Richard Nixon made his historic trip to China.
And at that time the price of gasoline was 36 cents a gallon.
I’m here in the Bay Area for many things. This one is perhaps the most important.
Tomorrow we are going to break ground on an extension of BART going down to San Jose.
And the Federal Transit Administration, as part of that project, is committing some $900 million to a $2.3 billion expansion of BART.
But what this facility shows us, and what the conditions that BART riders are experiencing everyday show, is that it’s not enough to invest in a systems expansion. What is absolutely critical is that we reinvest in its ongoing needs.
President Obama has articulated a policy to deal with higher gas prices. It’s an all-of-the-above policy.
It includes expanded oil and gas exploration, it includes investment in wind and solar power. It also includes investment in seeing to it that transit is a real option for more Americans.
That’s what BART-to-San Jose is going to do. But in order for transit to be a real meaningful option for people to avoid the pain at the gas pump, that service needs to be reliable and desirable. Absent reinvesting in the systems like BART, in the major maintenance, the replacement of rail cars that are now the oldest rail cars running in the United States.
If we don’t replace those rail cars, transit will no longer be a meaningful and real option for avoiding the pain at the gas pump. Every year since the Obama administration has taken office the transit budget we put forward to Congress have highlighted investments in state of good rapair of our systems as the highest budget priority.
They are not always the sexiest investments, but they are the investments that absolutely have to be made in order for rail transit and bus transit to remain a reliable and desirable option. We currently have an estimated backlog of some $80 billion nationwide in terms of major maintenance that needs to get done in order to maintain conditions of our existing transit services.
Those amounts exceed $4.4 billion right here in the Bay Area. That’s not just BART, it’s very critical investments that need to be made in Muni, Caltrain, SamTrans and all the other providers in this area.
But again, if we don’t make those necessary reinvestments in these systems, we’re going to lose ridership rather than gain it. And in a time of $4 gasoline we need to be talking about growing ridership and giving more families the opportunity to avoid that pain at the gas pump.
Let me just say also that it’s absolutely critical that Congress move forward—as Barbara Lee knows and as Pete Stark knows—it’s absolutely critical that Congress moves forward on a multi-year transportation authorization bill that will give agencies like BART, like Muni, like the other transit providers in the area the certainty of knowing that federal funds are on the way.
President Obama has articulated a plan to fund a well-funded multi-year transportation investment bill that would take half the savings that we’ll enjoy from bringing our troops back from Iraq and Afghanistan and reinvesting those dollars back in American infrastructure for highways and transit.
It’s absolutely essential that Congress moves forward with this course and not continue to kick the can down the road through short-term extensions.
Congresswoman Lee, Pete Stark, others like them know this well.
We need to reinvest here in America.
We need to try and claw back every manufacturing job that we’ve lost and we’ve been successful in that over the last few years, especially in areas like transit.
But in order for us to make real progress, in order for us to make sure we’re going to have the dollars to replace BART’s railcars, make the necessary investments so that BART and all the other transit providers are providing reliable and desirable service, we need a multi-year transportation bill coming out of Congress this year and we look forward to the leadership of people like Barbara Lee In helping make that happen.
Thank you very much.