Recently, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing titled “Better, Faster, Cheaper, Smarter, and Stronger: Infrastructure Development Opportunities to Drive Economic Recovery and Resiliency.”
During the hearing, Senate EPW Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) said in his opening remarks that the Highway Trust Fund is rapidly approaching insolvency due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“Prior to the pandemic, the Congressional Budget Office projected the Highway Trust Fund would run out of money in mid-2021," Chairman Barrasso said in his statement. "Now, with Americans driving less, the Highway Trust Fund will reach insolvency far sooner than first predicted."
Senator Barrasso also used his statement to tout the Senate's America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act (ATIA), which he urged Congress to pass instead of the House's INVEST in America Act.
“America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act will provide record levels of investment—$287 billion dollars will be available over five years to fix our roads and bridges, to create jobs, and to boost our economy," Barrasso said. “The legislation increases funding for all states and tribes, cuts red tape, and protects the environment. It will also increase needed certainty for states and communities to plan, permit, and build infrastructure projects."
The Senate EPW Chairman also made note of ATIA's streamlining provisions for infrastructure projects. “Given the unprecedented economic damage inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic, we must assure infrastructure projects are not needlessly delayed," he said. "The environmental review process is important and necessary. It can also cause unnecessary delays. Delays increase costs, limit private investment, and they hurt the American worker."
EPW Committee Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Delaware) stressed the importance of balancing streamlining efforts while keeping environmental review processes in place. “In ATIA, we address streamlining needs in part by focusing on how to make existing processes work better," Carper said. "In doing so, we demonstrate that it’s possible to facilitate important projects without forgoing environmental protection. That’s a win for all of us who use America’s roads, highways and bridges, and it’s a win for our planet."
Senator Carper also touted the legislation's solutions to climate change effects on transportation infrastructure. “ATIA invests nearly $5 billion over five years in a new resilience formula program available to all states, as well as a competitive resilience grant program," he said. "These new 'PROTECT' grants would support projects across America that reinforce, upgrade, or realign existing transportation infrastructure to better withstand extreme weather events and other effects of climate change."
The hearing also featured testimony from Jason Grumet, president of the Bipartisan Policy Center; Robert Lanham Jr., president of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) Board 2020 and president of Williams Brothers Construction Co. Inc.; and Christy Goldfuss, senior vice president of Energy and Environment policy at the Center for American Progress.
SOURCE: U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee