Governor Rendell Testifies Before Congress


Good morning and thank you Chairman Dodd and Senator Shelby for welcoming me to the
Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. Given the President’s recent infrastructure investment announcements, and the interest from people across America, I am very grateful to be here to testify about the need to create a National Infrastructure Bank to help finance critical investments in our nation’s crumbling infrastructure.

Building America’s Future

I am here both in my capacity as the Governor of Pennsylvania and as Co-Chair of Building America’s Future, which I am honored to lead along with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Mayor Mike Bloomberg of New York City. Building America’s Future is a growing, bipartisan, non profit organization of state and local elected officials from across the United States who believe that we must reform how we pay for infrastructure and that additional resources must be invested more wisely.

Our members include 18 sitting governors, 44 mayors of major cities, and 47 other state and local elected officials. They are republicans, democrats, and independents each working in their own communities to figure out how to repair and rebuild our crumbling infrastructure. Given the economic downturn, the decreased budgets in states and cities, and the rising unemployment rate, many of us are searching for responsible ways to invest more while spurring additional job growth.

The Need for Additional Investments in our Infrastructure

I am struck by what happens every time there is another infrastructure catastrophe in this country. For 24, 48, or 72 hours there is a barrage of news videos and articles about those catastrophes but when the cameras leave our collective attention is turned to other issues while the victims and local leaders are left to contend with the aftermath of the disaster.

Take the recent gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, California that killed at least four people, injured about 50, and destroyed or damaged more than 80 homes. Media reports indicate that the pipeline was first installed in 1956. As of now, we do not know the cause of that horrible explosion since the National Transportation Safety Board and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration continue investigating. But we do know that many of our pipelines and underground systems, such as our drinking water and waste water systems, are old and could fail at any moment.

The question for all of us here today is whether or not we will act in the aftermath of this recent crisis in California or must we wait for another catastrophic event to occur before we realize the need to move now and make investments to repair and rebuild infrastructure that was installed during the Eisenhower Administration?

I do not want to sound alarmist but I know firsthand that an accident of this magnitude – or worse - could happen in many other communities whether it is another gas pipeline, a structurally deficient bridge, aging dams, or leaking water pipes. Part of the reason many people do not think a problem exists is because these assets are hidden or underground. It is only after a disaster occurs do we pay attention to that infrastructure but by then it is too late.

Many of you may recall back in March of 2008 when I had to shut down I-95 in both directions just north of the Philadelphia central business district. An inspector from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation just happened to be in the area during lunch and discovered a major crack in one of the main concrete support pillars of I-95. We had to shut down the highway for fear that if that concrete pillar collapsed several hundred people could have been hurt or killed because 190,000 vehicles per day travel over that section of I-95. Thank goodness that inspector happened to discover that crack or the consequences could have been devastating.

In the past few years we have seen the I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis, dams fail in Cedar Rapids, widespread power outages in the Northeast and parts of the Midwest, and the levees fail in New Orleans. The cost of the search and rescue and clean-up efforts is in the billions where had we made the necessary investments we may have been able to avoid the costs in dollars and human lives lost. The aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have already totaled over $15 billion in Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance alone according to the Department of Homeland Security. Had we invested more in those levees perhaps we could have avoided the painful aftermath.

We should not wait for another disaster to take action and that is part of the reason why I am here today to discuss how a National Infrastructure Bank can help our nation.

Building America’s Future has been fighting for additional investments in our nation’s roads, bridges, transit systems, dams, levees, ports, drinking water and waste water facilities, broadband and electricity systems and other infrastructure. We believe that we must not only invest more but we must do so more wisely and with a longer-term vision. We must do more if the United States is to remain competitive in a global economy. A first class infrastructure system is one way to ensure our success in that effort.

I would also like to include a letter for the record that is signed by many of our fellow Building America’s Future governors, mayors, and other local elected officials. Whether it is Los Angeles’ “30/10” transit initiative, the construction of high speed rail in Florida or California, the public-private Crescent Corridor rail project connecting the South and the Northeast, or the need to address our crumbling bridges, dams and levees in other parts of the country we know that the needs for more investment already exists.

It is my opinion that you can help address that need by passing legislation before this Congress adjourns to establish a National Infrastructure Bank.