U.S. Representative James Oberstar (D-Minn.), chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, outlined his vision of the future of transportation when he met with leaders of the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) during a recent visit to College Station.
It was Representative Oberstar’s first visit to TTI but not his first experience with the agency. Indeed, the congressman often cites TTI research findings during transportation committee hearings and public speeches.
The April 14 visit was arranged by Representative Chet Edwards, who referred to the Minnesota congressman as “Mr. Transportation” when introducing him at the event. Edwards represents the 17th Congressional District of Texas, which includes Bryan/College Station, TTI‘s hometown.
“When Chet asked if I would like to come to College Station and meet with the Texas Transportation Institute, I said that’s like going to a birthday party for me,” says Oberstar. “This is where they do all of the great research.”
Both congressmen met privately with senior TTI leadership and Bob Johns, director of the Center for Transportation Studies at the University of Minnesota. Oberstar outlined his “future of transportation,” which focuses on transforming surface transportation programs, increasing multimodalism, enhancing livable communities, and developing new methods to fund and approve infrastructure projects.
“It was an honor to get to know Congressman Oberstar,” says TTI Agency Director Dennis Christiansen. “He has dedicated his life to mobility in the United States. He knows the way things work, he knows the issues, and he knows how important transportation is for our economy. He is also keenly aware of the vital role of transportation research.”
Oberstar was given an overview of TTI, which included details of the Universal Freight Shuttle (a zero-emission freight-movement system developed at the Institute), a “sneak peak” of the updated Urban Mobility Report (a widely publicized examination of congestion across the country) and a briefing on the Transportation Performance Measurement Program (a collaborative effort between TTI and the University of Minnesota in Oberstar’s home state).
“I salute you for your vision,” the 17-term congressman told participants. “A big problem facing America is the cost of logistics [the movement of people and goods]. TTI for years has been the nationally acknowledged leader and authority on metropolitan mobility and cost of congestion.”
During a news conference and gathering of Bryan/College Station elected officials and area leaders also hosted by TTI, Oberstar detailed his committee’s proposed $450 billion transportation bill that calls for streamlining federal funding mechanisms.
“We’re at a point where the current formula is not working very well,” he said. “We need to attack the major congestion choke points in America.” Oberstar blamed some of our congestion problems on the amount of time it takes to approve infrastructure projects. If approved, the new transportation bill would go into effect this fall.
Oberstar and Edwards spent part of their visit hearing from the mayors of Bryan and College Station and the Brazos County judge. The elected officials outlined their local road project priorities and detailed their concerns about future congestion problems.
“We are indebted to Congressman Chet Edwards for initiating the visit to TTI by Congressman Oberstar,” Christiansen said. “In our business, it is important that Chairman Oberstar knows who we are and what we do.”