January 17, 2024

Ranking Member Larsen Statement from Hearing on the State of Transportation

Washington, D.C.—The following are opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, from Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Rick Larsen (D-WA) during today’s hearing titled, “The State of Transportation.”

Video of Larsen’s opening statement is here.

More information on the hearing can be found here.

Ranking Member Larsen:
Thank you, Chairman Rouzer, for holding this hearing on the “State of Transportation.”

This Committee has a great story to tell when it comes to transportation. I am pleased that at today’s hearing, we will find that the state of transportation is strong, thanks to historic levels of infrastructure investment.

Last Congress, this Committee answered the call of states, local and Tribal governments, transit agencies, railroads, airports and ports to provide a much-needed boost to transportation networks.

Investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) have helped improve the economy and the state of transportation.

By passing these bills, Congress gave the construction industry longer-term stability and certainty. As Ms. Benford’s testimony points out, if Congress had not passed the BIL, contractors “would likely have seen a cut of 20-30 percent in the work they were able to bid on.”

Congress also gave communities across the country the means to take on game-changing projects. In the first two years of the BIL, U.S. DOT distributed over $262 billion for states, localities, transit agencies, railroads, airports and ports to carry out upgrades and priorities—and more is on the way. This includes $185 billion in highway funds, $41 billion in transit funds, and nearly $13 billion in airport funds.

BIL funds have already supported over 40,000 projects administered by U.S. DOT. In the two years since enactment, states have invested federal highway dollars into tens of thousands of additional projects.

Today, there is at least one new project in every Congressional district thanks to the BIL.

Projects across the country means construction jobs in every region of the country—jobs with good wages, benefits, and working conditions. BIL investment also means more jobs in the transit, trucking, aviation, rail and maritime sectors.

The challenge now is to build and maintain a sufficient pool of skilled workers to tackle all the project opportunities offered by the BIL. Mr. Millar’s testimony, from the great State of Washington, notes that the entire transportation industry is facing workforce challenges.

The BIL includes over $800 million in dedicated funding to train workers for in-demand jobs in manufacturing, semiconductors and more.

It also includes new flexibility for state DOTs to use highway formula funds for apprenticeships, pre-apprenticeships, and community college and vocational school partnerships. I look forward to learning what more Congress can do to support workforce development and training. 

The state of freight transportation is also strong thanks to Congressional and Administrative actions in response to global shocks in the aftermath of the pandemic. The Chairman mentioned the work that this Committee has done specifically over the last year and BIL funding is helping as well.

Funding is helping ports move cargo more efficiently, reduce emissions and better compete globally. BIL funding is also helping tackle the biggest surface transportation bottlenecks.

The passage and implementation of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022 (OSRA), which originated in this Committee thanks to Mr. Johnson and Mr. Garamendi, has helped support a stronger supply chain.

As we will hear in Mr. Edwards’ testimony today, the international supply chain normalized in 2023. Shipping container rates have fallen, port congestion has eased, shipper complaints have received quicker action and positive outcomes, and the Federal Maritime Commission has enhanced fee fairness and transparency.

These reforms mean that when new international challenges arise and strain the global and domestic supply chain, the U.S. will be better prepared to react.

Today’s hearing is a welcome review of how well infrastructure investments are working.

But keeping our transportation systems in good repair, resilient, and ready for future freight and passenger demand will require ongoing investment.

Reliable and robust investment in infrastructure is key to the long-term success and sustainability of our transportation systems and supply chain networks for decades to come.

I am committed to working with Chairman Graves to ensure this Committee continues to provide the necessary resources to support the economy, the traveling public, and America’s transportation workers.

Thank you to our witnesses for being here today to help us out.