June 29, 2020

Chair DeFazio’s Statement Before the Rules Committee on the Moving Forward Act

Washington, D.C. — The following are remarks, as prepared for delivery, from Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR), during the Rules Committee meeting on H.R. 2 The Moving Forward Act.

I’m pleased to testify before the Rules Committee today in support of H.R. 2, the “Moving Forward Act.” 

America’s infrastructure is in crisis. Our system of roads, bridges, public transit, rail, airports, ports and water systems are badly outdated, causing stress and safety hazards for our citizens, strain on our economy.

As Chair of the T&I Committee, I’ve been sounding the alarm for some time now about the need to make massive investments in our crumbling infrastructure so we create jobs and safer, smarter transportation systems and so we can cut the carbon pollution that is taking an enormous toll on the public health of our families and our planet.  

But, I’m not the only one who thinks we need to invest. President Trump himself has been talking about the need for an infrastructure package since before he was elected. In fact, we’ve had so many “infrastructure weeks” the phrase now elicits laughter whenever it’s used.

Unfortunately, President Trump’s budgets have not reflected his talk. The President’s most recent budget proposal (FY21) continued his assault on clean water by drastically reducing funding for clean water programs and once again slashed the Army Corps’ budget by a third. It also includes a 13 percent cut to the Department of Transportation’s discretionary budget authority, which was a small improvement over his FY20 Budget which proposed cutting the Department of Transportation’s discretionary funding by 22 percent.

After three years of inaction and fuzzy-math proposals related to infrastructure, the President’s FY21 budget included a proposal to invest $1 trillion over ten years in direct federal funding in our infrastructure. Included in this proposal was a $810 billion ten-year surface transportation reauthorization and a $190 billion package of one-time additional investments. While $810 billion may sound significant, it’s only $88 billion above baseline over ten years, and the five-year funding for highways is lower than the Senate highway bill which the President has endorsed. 

There’s talk that the President may be releasing another infrastructure proposal as soon as this week. I hope he does, but we’re not going to sit around waiting.

Given what we’ve seen over the past few months—from a global pandemic and the resulting economic collapse, to the urgent need to address generations of structural and systematic racism—it has never been so apparent that we need bold action to rebuild America.

That’s why I’m so pleased that this week the House will consider and pass a comprehensive infrastructure package. The Moving Forward Act is a $1.5 trillion plan to rebuild American infrastructure—not only our roads, bridges, and transit systems, but also our schools, housing, broadband access, and so much more. 

As chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I’m particularly focused on investing in our roads, bridges, transit, rail, and water systems. In the Moving Forward Act, we do that by modernizing the crumbling roads and bridges we already have; investing more than $100 billion in transit to put more zero-emission buses on the road, add new routes, and provide more reliable service; tripling Amtrak’s funding; funding the essential dredging and upkeep of American harbors, ports, and channels to keep cargo moving; and investing in new wastewater infrastructure to encourage efficiency and affordability, and help communities address stormwater needs, preventing pollution in local rivers. 

The centerpiece of this package is the INVEST in America Act, which provides 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 was developed after the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held nearly 20 Committee hearings, received testimony from dozens of witnesses and Members of Congress, and engaged with hundreds of advocates and transportation agencies.

Committee Republicans may complain that they were cut out of the drafting process for this bill. But after reading their Minority Views, it’s clear the real problem is that we disagree about climate change. In the Minority Views they state: “H.R. 2, as amended, prioritizes climate change policy.” They go on to say that one of their main concerns “is the pervasive interweaving of climate change policy throughout surface transportation programs.” And to that, I must plead guilty.  

Climate change is the defining challenge of our time, our transportation system is the leading cause of U.S. carbon pollution, and the INVEST in America Act addresses it head on. If that means this bill is partisan, so be it.

The INVEST in America Act takes a bold and comprehensive approach to meeting the challenge of climate change. 

•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.

But that’s not all. H.R. 2 addresses bottlenecks and gridlock, while building out the infrastructure for low- and zero-emission vehicles and encouraging transit-oriented housing. 

We encourage smarter road designs to bring down the sharp rise in pedestrian and cyclist deaths, and make sure our roads are safer in rural areas and for kids who need safe routes to school.  This bill boosts highway safety funding by more than 30 percent over current law; 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. 

We invest in new technologies, projects, and construction materials that are efficient and resilient—so that when we build a new bridge, we know it will last for decades, not just until the next extreme weather event.

The legislation also 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 in America 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, which is the centerpiece of the Moving Forward framework, 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. 

Add to that the $1 trillion in additional investment in schools, housing, broadband access, drinking and wastewater infrastructure, airports, ports and more, and you have a package that will make a huge impact on our economy. 

The bottom line is this legislation will create millions of family wage jobs, support American manufacturing, and restore 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. 

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