Senate Commerce Examines America’s Infrastructure Needs

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On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation examined the opportunities for infrastructure improvement, including federal funding, financing programs, and permitting and regulatory streamlining at a hearing entitled, “America’s Infrastructure Needs: Keeping Pace with a Growing Economy.” The testimony the witnesses provided before the full committee hearing focused on the committee’s role in technology, multimodal transportation, and key grant and Highway Trust Fund (HTF) programs. The following people testified:

  • William Friedman, Chairman of the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), President and CEO of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority;
  • Ian Jefferies, President and CEO of the Association of American Railroads (AAR);
  • Matthew Polka, President and CEO of the American Cable Association (ACA);
  • Chris Spear, President and CEO of the American Trucking Association (ATA); and
  • Larry Willis, President of Transportation Trades Department at AFL-CIO.

All witnesses urged lawmakers to increase the federal gas tax to fix the HTF.

As the hearing started, Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) stated, “The American Society of Civil Engineers report card gives our infrastructure a grade of D+. Our ports are congested. Americans spend eight billion hours stuck in traffic each year. In Mississippi alone, there are thousands of structurally deficient bridges. These statistics mean fewer jobs, less time with family, lower economic growth, or worse. Fortunately, improving our infrastructure is an area where bipartisan agreement and cooperation can be found,” and “Given its jurisdiction, this committee is in a unique position to examine how technology, including advances in automation, artificial intelligence, and connectivity, can revolutionize transportation and mobility for the 21st Century.” Further into the hearing, Chairman Wicker asked if the federal gas tax should be indexed, and whether the country’s surface transportation infrastructure would be in better shape if it had been done earlier. Transportation-focused panelists agreed that the federal gas tax should be indexed and agreed we would be in a better situation if this had already been done.

Capitol Hill is booming with hearings, discussions, and meetings as a part of a legislative push aimed at developing and passing robust and broad infrastructure legislation. The Senate Commerce Committee joined in on the conversations around this legislative push today as they began the discussion of infrastructure investment at the hearing. This hearing followed on the heels of last week’s U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee hearing and the State of the Union Address, where President Trump identified infrastructure investment as a top priority for the second year in a row. Notably, he said, “it’s a necessity, not an option,” and asked Congress to produce an infrastructure package that invests in vital national infrastructure projects.

We can no longer afford to defer investment in our nation’s infrastructure. To close the $2.0 trillion 10-year investment gap, meet future need, and restore our global competitive advantage, we must increase investment from all levels of government and the private sector from 2.5% to 3.5% of U.S.

ASCE’s government relations team is actively engaged as this legislative push continues on Capitol Hill. We urge you reach out to your Members of Congress and tell them to put forward a long-term plan to improve our infrastructure systems.

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