December 13, 2023

Ranking Members Larsen, Norton Statements from Hearing on Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Implementation

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) and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) during today’s hearing titled, “Oversight of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act: Modal Perspectives.”

Video of Larsen and Norton’s opening statements are here and here.

More information on the hearing can be found here.

Ranking Member Larsen:
Thank you, Chairman Crawford and Ranking Member Norton, for holding this hearing.

Welcome to our Department of Transportation (USDOT) witnesses and thank you for participating today so the Subcommittee can learn more about your work to implement the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL).

Today’s hearing is another opportunity to highlight how federal infrastructure dollars are benefiting communities and building a cleaner, greener, safer and more accessible transportation system.

Congress provided $530 billion in the BIL for roads, bridges, transit, buses, ferries, and other infrastructure needs under the Highways and Transit Subcommittee’s jurisdiction.

The investment level and number of new initiatives in the BIL far exceeds previous transportation bills. Congress handed USDOT a tall order in implementing this legislation.

In the first two fiscal years of the BIL, the Department distributed over $180 billion in highway funds and $40 billion in transit funds to states and localities. Funding has gone out under more than three dozen competitive grant programs, and more is on the way.

Just this morning, the Department announced awards for the Safe Streets For All program totaling $817 million for 385 projects nationwide.

This includes three grants in my district totaling $1.4 million to help the City of Anacortes and Skagit County develop roadway safety action plans and the Lummi Indian Business Council to test nine safety demonstration projects.

Yesterday, the Department announced awards for 18 projects under the Rural Surface Transportation Grant Program which totaled $645 million. This funding will help rural communities reconstruct road and freight infrastructure to make them safer and more accessible.

I highlight these award announcements because they clearly demonstrate how communities across the U.S. are seeing the benefits of the BIL.

They are also seeing benefits through the creation of jobs. These dollars translate into projects on the ground and jobs for American workers.

Through September 2023, BIL dollars have supported over 60,000 highway projects alone, according to analysis by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association.

There is at least one new project underway in every Congressional district in the country.

Thanks to BIL, USDOT has awarded $25 million in RAISE grants to Whatcom County to replace the 60-year-old Lummi Island Ferry.

Projects like this one and other projects across the country mean jobs—jobs with good wage, benefits, and working conditions for transportation workers and manufacturers. The BIL means more jobs in the transportation construction, transit, trucking, aviation, rail and maritime sectors.

Without these investments, the economy would be in far worse shape.

We are only two years through a five-year bill. The Department has invested in projects across the country, and there is more to come.

Now, Congress has the job of conducting oversight of implementation efforts by USDOT, state DOTs, project sponsors, and industry to ensure these projects are delivered quickly and effectively and that the law is implemented in line with Congressional intent.

Congress directed investments in the BIL to address many things including climate change and reduce carbon pollution. We directed investments to improve safety and equity outcomes on our transportation networks. And we wanted to put more decision-making power into the hands of local communities, whose leaders know their infrastructure needs best.

These and other policy changes are now in the hands of USDOT to execute.

I applaud the Department’s efforts to date on this front and the steps taken to address the unacceptably high rate of deaths, to prioritize equity considerations in grants, to ensure Disadvantaged Business Enterprises reap the benefits of BIL funding, and to measure and reduce carbon pollution from transportation sources as provided for in transportation law dating back a decade.

I welcome this opportunity to once again acknowledge and celebrate the infrastructure benefits each of our districts and constituents are reaping.

This Committee continues delivering bipartisan solutions for all Americans.

I thank all of our witnesses for their service and for guiding your agencies and the priorities Congress has asked you to implement. I look forward to today’s discussion.

Ranking Member Norton:
I would like to thank Subcommittee Chair Rick Crawford for holding this hearing on the implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was one of the most important bills enacted last Congress.  Within our Subcommittee’s jurisdiction, it provided $365 billion for highways, $108 billion for transit, $43 billion for multi-modal grants and $13 billion for highway and motor carrier safety.

The work of our Subcommittee helped set the bar high.  Many of the funding levels in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act are similar to what we proposed in the INVEST Act.

Two years in, we are seeing the success of the law across the country.  This past summer, the national capital region’s transit agency, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, received a $104 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration to purchase zero-emission buses, convert an existing maintenance facility to serve electric buses and train its workforce to operate and maintain electric buses.

I thank Administrator Fernandez and the Biden Administration for this investment in good jobs and cleaner air for our region. Success stories like this are playing out across the nation. Every Member in this room today—whether they voted for the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or not—has at least one project funded in their congressional district.

As implementation continues, our country will see safer transportation, improved mobility, a cleaner environment and better access for all communities.

Much work remains to be done. America is experiencing an epidemic of traffic fatalities, which is falling disproportionately on pedestrians, cyclists and communities of color. I look forward to hearing from each of our witnesses about their work to prevent these fatalities.

We also must reckon with the rise of new technology, such as autonomous vehicles, and what it means for our workforce.  Our workers are the backbone of our transportation network. As new technologies become more prevalent, we must ensure that we protect jobs and give workers a seat at the table.

We also must work to mitigate the impact of our transportation system on the environment. Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and our transportation policies and programs must be reformed accordingly. Expanding access to transit, walking and biking infrastructure is a key part of the solution.

I also support the Federal Highway Administration’s new requirement that states and Metropolitan Planning Organizations track their highway emissions and make plans to reduce them. This requirement is derived from authority provided by Congress in 2012 and is a critical step in the right direction.

I also appreciate Department of Transportation-wide efforts to improve equity and redress the decades of harm caused by our transportation system to low-income communities and communities of color. I urge the department to ensure the Neighborhood Access and Equity funding, approved by this committee as part of the Inflation Reduction Act, is quickly put to use.

Thank you to our witnesses today. I appreciate your diligent work to implement the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and the diverse and thoughtful perspectives you bring to the challenges ahead. I look forward to today’s discussion.