(Senate - April 05, 2006)

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[Page S3158]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


  Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, as Chairman and on behalf of my colleagues 
on the Environment and Public Works Committee, I urge support of this 
resolution to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Interstate 
System. The Committee as a whole would like to mark the momentous 
achievements made over the last 50 years that have provided for 
revolutionary advances in our nation's vital infrastructure. It is 
essential that Congress, just as it did in 1956, recognize the 
importance of continued investment in our nation's highways and the 
undeniable link between a robust economy and a vibrant national 
  Because of my work on SAFETEA-LU (Public Law 109-59) I have a better 
appreciation of just how visionary the authors of the Federal-Aid 
Highway Act of 1956 were when they laid out a network of interstate 
highways and devised a stable and reliable funding stream to pay for 
it. I am certain that at the time there were those who felt the plan 
was too ambitious, too expensive and consequently not a good use of 
scarce Federal dollars. I am sure all would agree that not only was it 
a good use of scarce Federal dollars, but that the nation has enjoyed a 
many-fold return on the expenditure.
  Laying out the full interstate system--rather than a piecemeal of 
road segments--along with providing a dedicated funding source 
expedited construction and provided certainty. This certainty maximized 
the economic and mobility benefits of the system. Businesses and 
individuals knew that they could locate somewhere on the future 
interstate system and be connected to rest of the country.
  The second essential element of the success of the highway program 
over the last 50 years has been the dependable funding stream for the 
interstate. In the absence of this dedicated funding source, it is my 
firm belief that investment in our nation's highways and bridges would 
be far less than has been the case. Without the relative certainty of 
funding and knowledge of the interstate's general location, the impacts 
on productivity and economic growth would have been dramatically less 
than we experienced.
  The connectivity and mobility provided for both freight and people by 
our interstate system is unrivaled: and I believe was more than just a 
small part of the economic success enjoyed by the U.S. over the past 50 
years. It is essential that we continue to make the necessary 
investment to fight congestion and maintain the mobility necessary to 
keep the economy growing.
  I have always said that the federal government has two main 
functions: national defense and to provide infrastructure. Since one of 
the earliest justifications for the interstate system was to provide 
for national defense, the highway program is actually a perfect merger 
of the 2 most important functions of government.
  For the last 50 years the gas tax has been deposited into the trust 
fund and used to construct and maintain our roads. In the past, the gas 
tax has been a reasonably good proxy for road use; and the trust fund 
has in recent history had sufficient receipts to fund the highway 
program. This is changing with the increase in fuel efficiency, 
highlighted by fuel-cell vehicles coming just over the horizon, and 
improved technology allows for improvements in how to collect the user 
fee. It is important to look forward to how we fund the highway program 
in the future because when the next highway bill is drafted, there will 
be no cushion of a cash balance left in the trust fund.
  The current challenges facing the highway trust fund--and hence the 
highway program--will be very difficult to resolve and not unlike the 
challenges faced by the authors of the 1956 act. It will be up to 
policymakers to be as visionary as they were 50 years ago. A new vision 
is needed in what the highway program will stand for in the next 50 
years and how to pay for it.
  The resolution (S. Res. 427) was agreed to.
  The preamble was agreed to.
  The resolution, with its preamble, reads as follows:

                              S. Res. 427

       Whereas, on June 29, 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower 
     signed into law--
       (1) the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 (Public Law 84-627; 
     70 Stat. 374) to establish the 41,000-mile National System of 
     Interstate and Defense Highways, later designated as the 
     ``Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and 
     Defense Highways''; and
       (2) the Highway Revenue Act of 1956 (Public Law 84-627; 70 
     Stat. 387) to create the Highway Trust Fund;
       Whereas, in 1990, the National System of Interstate and 
     Defense Highways was renamed the Dwight D. Eisenhower System 
     of Interstate and Defense Highways to recognize the role of 
     President Eisenhower in the creation of the Interstate 
     Highway System;
       Whereas that web of superhighways, now spanning a total of 
     46,876 miles throughout the United States, has had a powerful 
     and positive impact on the lives of United States citizens;
       Whereas the Interstate System has proven to be a vital tool 
     for transporting people and goods from 1 region to another 
     speedily and safely;
       Whereas the use of the Interstate System has helped the 
     Nation facilitate domestic and global trade, and has allowed 
     the Nation to create unprecedented economic expansion and 
     opportunities for millions of United States citizens;
       Whereas the Interstate System has enabled diverse 
     communities throughout the United States to come closer 
     together, and has allowed United States citizens to remain 
     connected to each other as well as to the larger world;
       Whereas the Interstate System has made it easier and more 
     enjoyable for United States citizens to travel to long-
     distance destinations and spend time with family members and 
     friends who live far away;
       Whereas the Interstate System is a pivotal link in the 
     national chain of defense and emergency preparedness efforts;
       Whereas the Interstate System remains 1 of the paramount 
     assets of the United States, as well as a symbol of human 
     ingenuity and freedom;
       Whereas the anniversary of the Interstate System provides 
     United States citizens with an occasion to honor 1 of the 
     largest public works achievements of all time, and reflect on 
     how the Nation can maintain the effectiveness of the System 
     in the years ahead: Now, therefore, be it
       Resolved that the Senate
       (1) proclaims 2006 as the Golden Anniversary Year of the 
     Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and 
     Defense Highways;
       (2) recognizes and celebrates the achievements of the 
     Federal Highway Administration, State departments of 
     transportation, and the highway construction industry of the 
     United States, including contractors, designers, engineers, 
     labor, materials producers, and equipment companies, for 
     their contributions to the quality of life of the citizens of 
     the United States; and
       (3) encourages citizens, communities, governmental 
     agencies, and other organizations to promote and participate 
     in celebratory and educational activities that mark this 
     uniquely important and historic milestone.