U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster conducted his first transportation and infrastructure committee hearing this week that emphasized the importance of the network of roads, rails and waterways to the nation’s economy.
Shuster, R-Hollidaysburg, was appointed chairman of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in November.
“There were a few butterflies,” he said following the hearing Wednesday. “It reminded me of my first high school football game and baseball game. You are a little anxious, but once you get that first hit, everything is fine.
“It was that same feeling at the hearing, but once we were under way it was all good.”
Shuster said that it was a very productive hearing, with many of the freshman committee members in attendance.
“They came up after the meeting and said that they had learned a lot,” he said. “It was a very good meeting.”
Shuster follows in his father’s footsteps.
U.S. Rep. E.G. “Bud” Shuster led the committee from 1995 until his retirement in 2001.
The elder Shuster was instrumental in obtaining funding for the construction of Interstate Route 99 in Central Pennsylvania that now bears his name.
Bill Shuster’s brother, Bob Shuster, attended the hearing.
Since being elected in 2001, Bill Shuster has been a member of the committee. After he secured his seventh term in House from voters in the 9th Congressional District, he announced his intention to seek the chairmanship.
It has been nearly 15 years since a Pennsylvania House member has chaired a full committee. Bill Shuster is the only member of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation to serve as a committee chairman.
The focus of the first hearing held at the Rayburn House Office Building was to discuss the role of infrastructure and examine the role of the federal government in providing safe, efficient and reliable infrastructure.
Testifying before the committee was Building America’s Future co-Chairman and former Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and Chief Executive Officer Thomas J. Donohue and Laborers’ International Union of North America General President Terry O’Sullivan.
Rendell told the 60-member, bipartisan committee that without an overall vision for the nation’s transportation system, it would be dysfunctional.
“America’s transportation infrastructure would resemble a patchwork of disconnected roads and rails; our aviation system would be untenable; goods movement would be greatly hindered; and the electric grid would be a disconnected system in each of the 50 states,” he said. “And all of this would cost businesses and consumers billions of dollars.”
The transportation and infrastructure committee has jurisdiction over aviation, maritime and waterborne transportation, highways, bridges, mass transit and railroads, according to the committee website.
The varied transportation and infrastructure modes are within many federal agencies, including the Department of Transportation, U.S. Coast Guard, Amtrak, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Emergency Management Agency, General Services Administration, the Army Corps of Engineers and others.
According to the committee website, in addition to the 4 million miles of public roads, the committee is additionally responsible for the oversight of the 19,700 civil airports, 138,000 miles of freight rail, about 1,700 miles of levees, 650 dams and 383 major lakes and reservoirs.
“Transportation is important,” said Bill Shuster. “It’s about people and how they live their lives. It’s also about business. An efficient national transportation network lowers production costs and enhances productivity and profits. And it is about America. Our national transportation system binds us together. Working together in the 113th Congress, the Committee will focus on strengthening America’s national transportation network to make us more efficient, more competitive and more prosperous. This is an important responsibility of government — especially the federal government.”
In convening the hearing, Shuster used a gavel that was fashioned from a 180-year-old beam at the Shuster family farm in Everett.
The committee chairman split the locust wood on Thanksgiving Day. Somerset Door and Column Co., of Somerset, manufactured the gavel for him, he said.