June 30, 2021

ICYMI: Chair DeFazio joins Speaker Pelosi, Chairman Pallone, and other Committee Members to Discuss Transformational Surface Transportation and Water Infrastructure Bill

Chair DeFazio participates in a news conference about the INVEST in America Act alongside (from left to right), Reps. Sharice Davids (D-KS), Paul Tonko (D-NY), Speaker Pelosi (D-CA), and Chairman Pallone (D-NJ)

WASHINGTON, DC Today, Chair of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) joined U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Chair of the Committee on Energy and Commerce Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), and other members from both committees to discuss the INVEST in America Act (H.R. 3684), legislation containing transformational policies to reimagine federal investment in America’s roads, bridges, transit, rail, and drinking water and wastewater infrastructure.

During the news conference, DeFazio emphasized how the INVEST in America Act would create good-paying jobs, bolster America’s global competitiveness, and tackle the climate crisis by moving U.S. infrastructure out of the Eisenhower era and into the 21st century and beyond in a way that’s more resilient.

To learn more about the INVEST in America Act, click here. To watch the full news conference, click here.

A transcript of Chair DeFazio’s remarks at the news conference are below:

The Speaker, everybody always wonders about my socks. Today, I’ve got my Route 66 socks.

That's nostalgic, was a great time in America, it was when we began the Eisenhower program to join the country together with the national highway system.

It was built as the National Defense Highway System, because of fear of invasion by Russia to move military equipment.

And because of fear of nuclear war, to evacuate the cities, we have a new existential challenge, which is climate change.

And as we move into 21st century, and rebuild our infrastructure, this is time to transform the way the system works, and build it, rebuild it with materials that are resilient.

Rebuild it in anticipation of sea level rise, severe weather events. Heat waves in the Northwest. We had pavement melting cables supplying the streetcars melting this last week, pretty extraordinary, unprecedented. So, we have to rebuild in ways that we never even thought about before. It's going to be expensive. But the good news is it is going to create millions, millions of good paying jobs.

Let me talk about the smaller part of the bill. First wastewater. I was meeting with the laborers, and they were still kind of upset about canceling the XL pipeline, you know, the most destructive form of energy possible, tar sands. And, and they said, we know that was eight or 10,000 jobs.

So, I said, well, you know, I'm putting 5 billion a year into wastewater, and every billion creates 20,000 jobs. That's 100,000 jobs a year for your people and other people in construction and other trades. And they're like, Wow, that sounds pretty good. I'm talking IBEW. And I said, you know, they're concerned about well, this is awful green. Good. And, you know, I said, Yeah, we're going to electrify the national highway network, that largest single source of fossil pollution is transportation in this country.

But where the world is moving to electric, like the corporations in America are moving to electric. But we're stuck in the pack.

You know, I had Fred Smith testify making the business case, Fred Smith, FedEx, he's going all electric, I drove an electric semi—80,000 pounds semi—about a month ago. They're incredible. They're coming.

There's no single place in America outside of a fleet charging station to charge one of those. GM is going all electric, you know.

So, we can either let China capture another market from us, you know, the future of transportation in EVs, and AVs, autonomous vehicles, or we can compete.

In fact, we can lead again, like we did in the 60s, and the 70s, when our infrastructure was the envy of the world. We were number one, we're now number 13. And falling fast. We're investing one half of 1% of our GDP in infrastructure, China is investing six, other competitor nations are investing between three and four. We cannot afford to be absent from this debate anymore. States are trying to do it on their own. They can't do it on their own. This is a federal system. It's a federal problem. Its international competitiveness, its jobs, its manufacturing.

So, we need to make these investments. In the surface bill, we are going to increase transit by 140%. And we're going to make states look at alternatives to more and more lanes of highways. We built 25,000 miles of highways, and 35,000, sorry, in our 100 largest cities in the last 20 years. And guess what? Congestion is six times worse. That is not the solution.

So we're going to make states look at alternatives. Rail, transit, micro transit. All the other things that can work.

We're going to deal with our bridge problem. 47,000 bridges in this country on the national highway system are in need of substantial repair or replacement. We have a massive new bridge program here. We also have one targeted to the most economically significant bridges in America. I might mention the Brent Spence Bridge from Kentucky to Ohio, which will probably have to close in eight years. And it takes about eight years to build a bridge of that size.

So that's one of many major projects around the country. In the tunnels under the river, which are going to ultimately fail and cut off rail traffic, or even, that's 20th century technology. We're living on 18th century—19th century—engineering. The critical rail tunnel under Baltimore was built in 1872. It’s brick. I've been in it. It's raining inside because of leaking water mains above; it's not going to last. And it also has a huge curve and restricts traffic and speed.

We have to do these things. We have to do these things for the American people to get them out of congestion, too, so that they don't have to, you know, get car repairs because of potholes.

We have to do it for American business, so that their trucks aren't sitting in traffic and costing them money and avoiding just in time delivery.

We have to do it for our international competitiveness. This is the moment we have to be bold and this is the bill.