“The transportation system is the engine that drives the nation’s economy,” Norman Y. Mineta asserted in a presentation last week to the City Club of Boise.
“Economic growth depends on the safe and reliable movement of people and goods,” the U.S. Transportation Secretary told a capacity crowd. “That’s why passage of the transportation bill is so critical. Without passage, we are robbing local governments of their ability to plan for future transportation needs.”
The nation’s top transportation official confirmed what many in the audience already know – that Idaho’s presence among the nation’s fastest growing state economies depends heavily on growth of its transportation system.
He brought hope to the noon forum that a House-Senate conference committee had reached a compromise on the federal transportation bill earlier in the day and possibly would forward it to President Bush. That optimism enjoyed a short life. By Tuesday of this week it became clear that Congress would be unable to meet the projected schedule and that another extension of the federal spending bill was inevitable.
The transportation secretary, in his second visit to Boise in the past three years, addressed an array to topics from creation of the Transportation Security Administration to Amtrak and public transportation.
The federal government should embrace innovation rather
than stifle it, Mineta said.
Before addressing moderated questions from the audience, Mineta talked about the need to improve highway safety and reduce traffic-related collisions and deaths; railroad safety; the need to replace Amtrak with intercity passenger rail that meets the needs of travelers; and efforts to make flying safer, smoother and more efficient through the use of technology.
A half-hour of questions covered such topics as airport/aviation security, improved security at shipping ports, safeguarding the privacy of air travelers, gasoline prices and fuel efficiency, the economic viability of struggling airlines and allowing them to fail, and the development of local light rail systems.