June 30, 2021

Chair DeFazio Floor Statement on the INVEST in America Act: “We Can’t Solve These Problems by Continuing the Status Quo—Eisenhower 8.0. We Need to Reform Our Transportation Policies to Meet the Challenges of Today”

Washington, D.C. — The following are House floor remarks, as prepared for delivery, from Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) on H.R. 3684, the INVEST in America Act, legislation containing transformational policies to reimagine federal investment in America’s roads, bridges, transit, rail, and drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. Video of Chair DeFazio’s statement can be found here. More information on the INVEST in America Act can be found here.

Chair DeFazio:

M. Speaker, today we begin consideration of H.R. 3684, the INVEST in America Act, a transformational surface transportation and water infrastructure bill.

When the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System was created, it was a bold response to the challenges of that time, including the threat to America’s national security posed by the Soviet Union and the Cold War. Today however, America is facing a new set of challenges:

  • The infrastructure built in the Eisenhower era is crumbling and threatening our safety, quality of life, and economic competitiveness.
  • Climate change, driven primarily in the U.S. by the transportation sector, is an existential threat today and to future generations.
  • Inequality and racial injustice have long been perpetuated by our transportation programs, policies, and funding decisions.
  • U.S. infrastructure—once the envy of the world—now ranks 13th, hindering our global competitiveness. 
  • Water mains explode and sewers back up.
  • A rising China threatens our domestic workforce and manufacturing.

We can’t solve these problems by continuing the status quo—Eisenhower 8.0. We need to reform our transportation policies to meet the challenges of today.

The INVEST in America Act represents our path forward, making the bold changes needed to improve our mobility, reduce emissions, and build a more just and equitable future. The bill invests $715 billion in our highways, bridges, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, transit systems, railroads, drinking water facilities, and wastewater infrastructure—a significant increase over current levels.

But we can’t afford to simply push more money through broken programs. That’s why the INVEST Act pairs major investments with long-overdue policy reforms.

Transformative Policy for Roads, Bridges, Transit, and More

The bill includes a bipartisan proposal to transform the largest highway construction program to focus on state of good repair and eliminate policies that result in unneeded capacity expansions.

The INVEST Act includes $32 billion in dedicated bridge funding, including $4 billion for off-system bridges, $4 billion for major bridge projects, and $1 billion for rural and Tribal bridges.

It establishes two major new formula programs to confront the threat of climate change—one to reduce carbon pollution, and one to enhance the resilience of the transportation system against extreme weather. We also create accountability through a new performance measure to track states on their progress in reducing carbon pollution. 

The bill makes historic investments in our transit systems, helping to address our $100 billion state of good repair backlog, while providing new transit service to unserved and underserved communities. We double investments in low-income communities in the urbanized area formula and set aside $50 million in formula funds each year to support transit in rural persistent poverty communities. 

The bill includes a strengthened commitment to saving lives, with a more than 50 percent increase in highway safety funds, a $10 billion investment in protecting bicyclists and pedestrians, and a new standard for context-sensitive design to protect all users of the roadway.

The bill positions America to be a leader in the clean energy economy, through $4 billion in investments in electric vehicle and alternative fuel charging, and $4 billion for zero-emission transit vehicles, including $500 million to ensure our transit workforce is prepared to operate and maintain these new fleets.

The INVEST in America Act supports communities of all sizes—urban, suburban, and rural. The bill provides a 50 percent increase for rural transit in year one—$37 billion from the Surface Transportation Program will be suballocated to local communities.  We create several new multi-modal discretionary grant programs, including the Community Transportation and Community Climate grants, for local government applicants.  

Support for Local Projects and DBE Program

For the first time in a decade, we provided a bipartisan Member Designated Projects process, ensuring investments in local communities across the country, backed with strong ethics and transparency requirements.

The INVEST in America Act also reauthorizes the critically-needed Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, or DBE, program at the Department of Transportation. Research shows that discrimination still impacts the market to construct and maintain our federal surface transportation system. The transportation DBE program helps alleviate the disadvantages that women and minority-owned businesses continue to face.

I include for the record a more comprehensive statement about the need for this crucial program into the record, along with a list of several key studies on discrimination used to help inform the reauthorization of the DBE program.

Historic Investments in Rail

The INVEST in America Act includes an historic $95 billion in rail investment. These funds are directed towards Amtrak, intercity passenger rail expansion, high-speed rail, freight rail, and projects to improve rail safety. These investments are targeted to create exceptional passenger rail, slash carbon pollution, and improve service to and investment in socially disadvantaged communities.

Specifically, the bill provides $32 billion in Amtrak investment to support the National Network and the Northeast Corridor. Under fix it first, Amtrak has a substantial backlog of unfunded state of good repair projects on their network, including an estimated $40 billion on the Northeast Corridor alone. The electrified Northeast Corridor emits up to 83 percent less greenhouse gases than driving and up to 73 percent less than flying. The bill also gives Amtrak more opportunities to enforce their statutory right to access freight rail track and limit freight rail interference that delays passenger trains.

The bill also invests in passenger rail with the creation of the Passenger Rail Improvement, Modernization, and Expansion program—or PRIME—which is a $25 billion competitive grant program for states and localities to launch high-speed and intercity passenger rail development.

In addition, the bill tackles the big rail projects that need significant investment to get off the ground. The $25 billion Bridges, Stations, and Tunnels—or BeST—directed grant program funds bridges, stations, and tunnels that have total project costs of at least $500 million.

The bill robustly funds safety programs to support a whole host of rail projects including rail line relocation, grade crossing improvements, railroad trespassing and suicide prevention. And the bill provides a new grant for highway-rail grade crossing separation, recognizing that the safest highway-rail grade crossing is a separated one.

I am also pleased that this legislation includes what would be the first reauthorization of the Clean Water State Revolving Fund since its enactment in 1987. The INVEST Act incorporates the bipartisan bill, the Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act, sponsored by the Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, Ms. Napolitano, and the gentleman from Pennsylvania, Mr. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA). 

Wastewater Investments

This legislation represents a bold renewal of the federal commitment to invest in our wastewater infrastructure and address local water quality challenges, and it’s long overdue. The bill authorizes the largest investment in wastewater infrastructure since the advent of the federal Clean Water programs—over $50 billion to repair and reinvest in our nation’s crumbling wastewater infrastructure network.

And, in the same way we are working to transform and modernize our nation’s highway system and move it out of the Eisenhower era, this legislation will transform the way we invest in our nation’s wastewater infrastructure network. It directly responds to the needs of communities— large and small, urban and rural, affluent and economically-disadvantaged—who came to the Committee asking for assistance in addressing their crumbling wastewater infrastructure networks.

The bill strives to increase the affordability of wastewater infrastructure investment by authorizing greater portions of federal assistance in the form of grants, and includes targeted funds to address the unique needs of rural, Tribal, and economically-disadvantaged communities. 

And it ensures that new clean water investments are made to address the challenges posed by climate change—increasing the resiliency of water utilities, ensuring that greenhouse gasses are captured and reused, and providing additional sources of recycled, potable water in arid regions of the country.

Investing in American Workers and American Manufacturing

And every investment in the bill is backed by strong Buy America requirements, labor protections, and new investments in worker training and safety. It’s not enough to transform our transportation system—we need to ensure that our investments create good-paying jobs, revitalize American manufacturing, and help us compete in the clean energy economy. 

These are bold reforms—but they’re urgently needed. They also echo much of what is included in President Biden’s American Jobs Plan, which calls for scaled up investments in our infrastructure, significant support for cleaner mobility, a focus on family-wage jobs, and a commitment to solving pressing challenges including climate change and environmental justice.

The INVEST in America Act represents our chance to reform and rebuild our infrastructure for the future.  An opportunity to improve safety, equity, and access for all Americans. And an urgent call to confront the existential threat of climate change and leave a better world for future generations. 

This is a transformative bill that will improve mobility, economic competitiveness, and the quality of life in communities across the country.  I urge all of my colleagues to support the bill and I reserve the balance of my time.