US Mayor

Success of ISTEA Recognized at Fifth Anniversary Celebration

Mayors, County Officials, Governors and Others Commit to ISTEA Renewal

Kevin McCarty

December 23, 1996

More than 300 transportation officials and guests joined together December 18 at Washington’s Union Station to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) and hear testimonials from key Congressional leaders, federal, state and local officials, and other transportation advocates in support of this landmark legislation.

Fort Worth Mayor Ken Barr, who chairs the Conference’s Public Transportation Subcommittee, emphasized the support of the nation’s mayors and that of the National League of Cities for ISTEA. “Transportation is about partnerships. Under ISTEA, we have finally brought local governments fully into the transportation partnership. On behalf of The U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities, I can assure you that we are not going to go back to the old days of transportation policy. We, as local officials, are only going forward. The progress we have made under ISTEA is remarkable.”

Citing his own experience with ISTEA, Barr said, “At our MPO’s table, the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth, our transportation authorities and the 60 or so other municipalities in our region have come together, worked together, planned together and cooperated. It has been a tremendous success story to the benefit of the all of the citizens of the Fort Worth/Dallas metroplex.”

“The nation’s cities and mayors are committed to ensuring that we will be celebrating another ISTEA anniversary in the very near future,” Barr said.

Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic, chair of the Conference’s Subcommitte on Urban Highways, underscored the support of the nation’s mayors for ISTEA and renewal of the Act next year. “On behalf of The U.S. Conference of Mayors, we want to thank all of you in getting the ISTEA program passed and making it so successful. We also want to pledge our support to do everything possible to join with you to make certain that we have a continuation of this program which has served our communities so well.”

Plusquellic also introduced mayors who represented the Conference at the ceremony. In addition to Mayor Barr, the delegation of mayors included Meridian Mayor John Robert Smith, who chairs the Conference’s Subcommittee on Railroads and Passenger Rail, Elizabeth, NJ Mayor Christian Bollwage, who chairs the Subcommittee on Highway Safety, and Burlington, VT Mayor Pete Clavelle.

Earlier that day Mayor Plusquellic chaired a special meeting where representatives of several organizations, including the Conference, National Association of Counties, American Public Transit Association, National Association of Regional Councils and the Surface Transportation Policy Project, met to discuss joint efforts on ISTEA renewal during 1997. ISTEA is slated to expire September 30, 1997.

Federal Policy Makers Praise ISTEA

Numerous federal officials participated in the luncheon event, with Transportation Secretary Federico Peña leading off the ceremony by praising lawmakers for enacting ISTEA. In discussing ISTEA, Peña said, “Its greatest achievement is to put in place ISTEA’s vision of partnership.”

Peña cited congestion, clean air and welfare to work as challenges for federal transportation policy. Peña used the event to release his Department’s report on the ISTEA regional forums held earlier this year. The report, “How to Keep America Moving,” summarizes key findings of this significant public outreach effort and it underscores the broad level of support for ISTEA renewal.

Federal Highway Administrator Rodney Slater joined the ceremony to praise successes under ISTEA, lauding Secretary Peña for his leadership of the Department. On December 20, President Clinton nominated Slater to replace Peña as Transportation Secretary.

Representative James Oberstar, ranking minority member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee, discussed the context for ISTEA. “We are now in the post interstate era. We made a decisive turn with ISTEA in 1991 when we made it clear that the nation was preparing for a new era in which we were thinking about moving people and goods more in the total context of transportation than from the limited viewpoint of highways only.” During his remarks, he also emphasized that among the first bills introduced when the 105th Congress convenes on January 7 will be legislation to take the transportation trust funds off budget as one of the first bills introduced. Rep. Oberstar indicated that he will be joined with the full Committee Chairman Bud Shuster in introducing this legislation.

The Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, Representative Thomas Petri, praised successes under the Act and told participants that, “ISTEA has set a high standard to meet.”

ISTEA’s Principal Author, Senator Moynihan, Shares Views

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who led the Congressional effort to enact ISTEA as then chair of the Senate authorizing committee, concluded the ceremony. Referring to the startup of the Interstate Highway System, Moynihan said, “At that moment it is was possible to see that these roads were too big for our cities and that they were going to smash them to pieces.” He then added, “These new roads were going right through our cities. You could say that these highways were going to empty the central cities of jobs, smash up the neighborhoods around them and “Urban America” would not overcome this. You could see it happening but you couldn’t get anyone to hear you. It took us thirty five years to pass a bill (ISTEA), but we did and still we haven’t been heard. It is wonderful that you are here.”

Also released at the event was a report, “Five Years of Progress,” prepared by the Surface Transportation Policy Project (STPP) that details ISTEA successes in more than 100 communities. STPP took the lead in organizing the event, which the Conference sponsored along with several other national organizations.

15 Governors Weigh In on ISTEA

In a separate but related action the night before the event, 15 governors wrote to Transportation Secretary Federico Peña and Congressional transportation leaders, calling upon the Administration and Congress to retain the major elements of ISTEA and provide adequate resources for the Act.