June 17, 2020

Chair DeFazio Statement from Full Committee Markup of the INVEST In America Act

Washington, D.C. — The following are opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, from Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) during today’s markup of the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America) Act:

Today, the Committee meets to consider H.R. 2, the “Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America) Act.” 

America’s surface transportation infrastructure is in crisis. Our system of roads, bridges, public transit and rail systems are badly outdated, causing stress and safety hazards for our citizens, strain on our economy, and an enormous toll on public health and our planet. 

For years, Congress has bypassed solving the toughest problems plaguing our surface transportation system, allowing the system to limp along and fall farther and farther into disrepair and disservice. 

That all changes with the INVEST in America Act. 

After holding nearly 20 Committee hearings, receiving testimony from dozens and dozens of witnesses and Members of Congress, and engaging with hundreds of advocates and transportation agencies, I am proud to bring the Committee together today to consider this transformational bill.

The INVEST in America Act provides the resources – nearly $500 billion - to catapult our country into a new era of smarter, safer, more resilient infrastructure that fits our evolving economy and society.

This legislation creates millions of family wage jobs, supports American manufacturing, and restores U.S. competitiveness. By putting people to work on transformative projects in urban, suburban and rural communities across the country, this legislation invests in jobs that can’t be exported. 

Addressing Climate Change

Climate change is the defining challenge of our time, and our transportation system is the leading cause of U.S. carbon pollution.  The INVEST in America Act take a bold and comprehensive approach to meeting this challenge. These provisions will mean less time stuck in traffic, new jobs in the clean energy economy, more choices for travelers, cleaner air for our communities, and better quality of life.   

•The bill invests $8.3 billion in a new carbon pollution reduction program, giving States the flexibility to reduce emissions through the projects that are right for their communities—whether that’s highways, transit, or rail. 

•The bill provides $6.3 billion through a new pre-disaster mitigation program, helping States prepare for and limit the impacts of extreme weather and natural disasters—whether that’s earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest, flooding in the Midwest, or hurricanes in our coastal communities.

•The bill invests $105 billion in transit, $60 billion in rail, and over $7 billion in transportation alternatives—ensuring that more Americans have access to efficient and reliable transportation options.

•We also invest in innovation, providing $3.1 billion for alternative fuel charging stations and zero-emission buses, and create a new green highway materials research, development, and deployment program.

Confronting our Safety Crisis

More than 35,000 people die on our roads every year, and 2019 was the deadliest year on record for pedestrians and cyclists. The INVEST in America Act moves the needle by promoting a safe systems approach and ensuring our transportation assets are designed to ensure the safety of all users in a complete and context sensitive manner. This bill:

•boosts highway safety funding by more than 30 percent over current law and emphasizes vulnerable road user safety; 

•invests in high-risk rural roads, safety improvements at railroad grade crossings, and transit worker safety; and

•prioritizes solutions to reduce distracted driving, improve school bus safety, and prevent drunk driving deaths. 

Equitable Investment in Communities

The INVEST in America Act directly invests in rural and urban low-income communities to provide greater access to jobs and remove transportation barriers. 

•The bill provides nearly $50 billion over five years in dedicated funding to local areas, including $4 billion in competitive grant funding for non-State applicants. 

•Recognizing that the impacts of pollution and congestion fall disproportionately on low-income communities and communities of color, the bill requires consideration of environmental justice and support for persistent poverty communities in formula and discretionary grant programs and throughout the planning process.

•Responding to the affordable housing crisis throughout our country, the INVEST Act creates a dedicated office within the US Department of Transportation to focus on transit oriented development and equity, makes it easier to construct affordable housing near transit, and creates several incentives for local governments to plan more affordable housing near high frequency transit lines.

In summary, the INVEST in America Act provides nearly $500 billion over five years to bring our nation’s crumbling infrastructure to a state of good repair, improve resiliency, address climate change, improve safety and provide investments in both rural and low-income communities who need it most. In addition, the first year of the bill provides more than $80 billion of that funding at 100 percent Federal share, eliminating the need for local match and providing additional eligibilities to help States, cities, tribes, territories, and transit agencies with salaries and operating expenses.

This is exactly the kind of investment we need to create jobs and help our economy recover from the current pandemic. I hope my colleagues will join me in supporting this legislation.