Too often, partisan rancor in Washington prevents Congress from doing big, important things. But no matter the headlines, there is always an opportunity for folks who are willing to work in a …
Too often, partisan rancor in Washington prevents Congress from doing big, important things. But no matter the headlines, there is always an opportunity for folks who are willing to work in a bipartisan way to get big things done. Making a major investment in our nation’s infrastructure is one of those opportunities — and it’s also a top priority for the American people, for the President, and for both parties in Congress.
As chairman and ranking member of the Senate committee with jurisdiction over our roads and bridges, we are committed to getting a major bipartisan highway infrastructure bill done.
It starts with America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act, legislation we are introducing to fix our roads, highways, and bridges.
No matter where you live, everyone knows that America’s infrastructure needs are significant. Across the country, nearly 200,000 miles of major highways require repairs — some need repaving, some a redesign. We also have more than 47,000 bridges that are deemed “structurally deficient.”
Our response is simple. Give states the money, flexibility, and incentives to build safer and more modern highway and bridge systems that will connect more Americans, power our economy and endure the test of time for the next decade and beyond. Our legislation streamlines government regulations while prioritizing environmental protection so that projects are built better, faster, cheaper and smarter.
By investing $287 billion in our road systems, this legislation is the most substantial highway bill in history. Ninety percent of that money would automatically go to states, so every community can have its needs met in red states and blue states alike.
America’s economy relies heavily on the nation’s roads and bridges. In 2015 alone, the US transportation system moved a daily average of about 49 million tons of freight worth more than $52 billion.
Our highways move goods from rural states like Wyoming to coastal states like Delaware. Our roads and bridges support jobs, commerce, and the American way of life.
Road safety was our top priority when we set out to write this bipartisan legislation. It increases funding to the existing Highway Safety Improvement Program and supports state-led initiatives to lower driver and pedestrian fatalities which, sadly, have continued to rise over the years.
Additionally, America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act will speed up project delivery by codifying key elements of the president’s “One Federal Decision” policy, without forgoing important environmental protections. Cutting red tape will allow important highway infrastructure projects to be built quicker and smarter.
Part of building smarter is improving the durability of our roads and bridges. From strong hurricanes along our coastlines to wildfires in the West, we need roads that can withstand natural disasters and extreme weather events. Our legislation invests $5.5 billion over five years in a new resiliency program dedicated to protecting highways from storms, fires, floods and rockslides.
Our climate is changing, and we recognize that. We also recognize the need to reduce carbon emissions from our transportation infrastructure. Dedicated funding and new incentives in our legislation will help states reduce their total transportation emissions. For example, states can get funding to help mitigate traffic congestion in urban areas. They also can choose to develop plans to reduce transportation related emissions and compete for additional funds if they meet or exceed them.
The legislation also creates a grant program to build infrastructure for alternative fuel vehicles in highway corridors where it doesn’t currently exist, so that drivers of these vehicles do not experience “range anxiety” that their car could leave them stranded. Drivers of electric, hydrogen and natural gas powered cars will now have access to these power and fuel stations.
We all use roads and bridges; we all have a stake in ensuring that our roads are safe and our bridges are structurally sound. America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act is historic and substantial. And, we agree it must be paid for. Congress shouldn’t write a blank check in the name of “infrastructure.”
To responsibly invest in our roads and bridges, drivers of all vehicles must contribute to maintain our highways. We will partner with the Senate Finance Committee to identify funding to pay for this legislation, responsibly.
The nation’s roads and bridges are the lifeblood of our economy and are essential to our daily lives. It’s time to make a serious and responsible investment in them.
(John Barrasso is a Republican senator from Wyoming and Tom Carper is a Democratic senator from Delaware. Respectively, they are chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. This column first appeared on CNN.com.)