Fired up Oberstar returns to WashingtonOutgoing U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar gave what was probably his last press conference as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, touching on topics such as gas taxes and his own future.
By: Forum Newspapers, Lake County News Chronicle
Outgoing U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar gave what was probably his last press conference as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, touching on topics such as gas taxes and his own future.
The press conference with Washington transportation reporters came two weeks after Oberstar, D-Chisholm, lost his bid for a 19th straight term in Congress to political newcomer Chip Cravaack, a conservative Republican.
Oberstar said he had just returned from a five-day vacation in France with his wife. He lamented the stagnant direction U.S. transportation policy seems to be headed in Washington in light of French trains that quickly speed residents and tourists to even small towns in the countryside cheaply and efficiently. Oberstar noted that gas prices in France were $3 to $4 higher per gallon than in the U.S., not because of higher petroleum prices but because the government uses high taxes to pay for transportation and other national projects.
“We’re just sitting on the sidelines while they are eating our lunch” in modernizing their transportation systems, Oberstar told reporters.
Oberstar said he supports statements this week by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood that the federal government will redirect high-speed rail money from states that pull out of the rail program to states that stay in.
Oberstar said he would work with Minnesota’s governor to secure Wisconsin’s money if it becomes available.
On his own future Oberstar said he hasn’t made firm plans yet but that “you will not be seeing my name on any lobbying firm.”
Oberstar aides have suggested he may be in the running for a top Obama administration post in transportation, although they concede no job offer has been made.