Water Infrastructure Tested as Transportation Funding Deadline Approaches


Flash floods, water main breaks and lingering damage from dam failures in South Carolina due to flooding have drenched the news headlines this week. Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, the House is scrambling to come up with a plan for reauthorizing the surface transportation bill before the Oct. 29 deadline.

Yesterday, the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) announced their latest bill, The Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015, and scheduled the committee mark-up of the bill for Oct. 22. In response to the rapidly-approaching deadline, Rep. John Delaney wrote a letter to House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Rep. Bill Shuster cautioning him that “continuing baseline funding levels will only lead to a further deterioration of our already failing infrastructure.”

According to a new poll from AAA, 70 percent of Americans believe the federal government should invest more than it currently does for roads, bridges and mass transit systems. Likewise, only 38 percent of Americans believe that Congress is taking the necessary steps to meet the needs of our nation’s roads, bridges and transit systems.

Meanwhile, flood damage in South Carolina and mudslides in California have dominated the headlines. In response to the widespread devastation in South Carolina two weeks ago, SCDOT reemphasized the state’s need for infrastructure funding. In California, extreme flooding caused by El Nino triggered a mudslide about 30 miles from Los Angeles. This incident shines a light on California’s vulnerable dams. According to the US Army Corp of Engineers, California has 1,594 dams and more than 50 percent are listed as high-hazard dams. The mudslide also resulted in road closings which inconvenienced drivers.

Traffic headaches caused by overflowing water are not limited to natural disasters, as a water main break this week outside of Washington, D.C. demonstrated. The event flooded nearby roads with gallons of water, also causing 250 local residents to lose power. Whether dams or water mains, clearly the nation’s water infrastructure is aging and needs investment. With the October 29 deadline looming, Congress must work together to pass a long-term surface transportation bill and #Fix the Trust Fund.

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