WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing on the implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
Below is the opening statement of Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery:
“Today, we welcome Secretary Pete Buttigieg before the Environment and Public Works Committee. Not only is this his first time testifying before our committee, but also his first congressional hearing since the enactment of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Mr. Secretary, we know you have quite a busy schedule, so thank you for joining us here today.
“Now to the topic of today’s hearing: implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This law represents the single largest investment in our nation’s roads and bridges since the construction of the Interstate Highway System nearly 70 years ago — a historic win for the American people in red states and blue states.
“As we discuss this bipartisan success story, I think it’s important to acknowledge the significant role that our committee played in drafting this legislation. Last May — after months of hard work — our committee unanimously reported out a surface transportation reauthorization bill by a vote of 20-0. Our bill went on to serve as the foundation for what became the broader bipartisan infrastructure package.
“Senator Capito and I had the privilege of managing that historic package on the Senate floor. We also stood together on the White House lawn that cold day in November when President Biden signed it into law.
“As we drafted and negotiated our bill, I had several top priorities in mind. They included enhancing the sustainability and resilience of our transportation systems, improving safety, especially for pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as addressing the backlog of repairs for roads and bridges in poor condition throughout our nation.
“That’s why I’m pleased to see this administration encouraging states to use federal highway funds to prioritize these same goals. Notice I said ‘encourage,’ not ‘require.’ That’s an important distinction we need to make today.
“To me, advancing these goals is common sense. And, as it turns out, many states agree. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials recently declared that states very much share the administration’s priorities of addressing climate change, safety, and roadway maintenance.
“And this should not come as a surprise. We know that the transportation sector accounts for the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. economy. Meeting our shared climate goals requires us to prioritize projects that reduce emissions and boost resilience.
“That’s why we included the first-ever climate title as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. In addition to our $18 billion climate title, we also secured $5 billion to build a national electric vehicle charging network, as well as funding to purchase electric transit and school buses.
“When we look at the need to address safety on our roads, the data paints a very clear, yet alarming picture. In the first nine months of 2021, U.S. traffic deaths rose to the highest number since 2006 with fatalities of pedestrians and bicyclists at a 30-year high. To reverse this troubling trend, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law makes significant investments in roadway safety, especially for our more vulnerable road users.
“Bike lanes and sidewalks not only benefit the safety of people who use them, but are also good for our health, our economy, and our planet. Encouraging agencies to build them is a win-win-win, and I applaud the administration for emphasizing safety for all road users as part of its National Roadway Safety Strategy.
“Third, when we look at fixing what’s broken, we get to what makes infrastructure personal for many families. Americans feel the impact of our crumbling roads and bridges every day when they commute to work or go to school. Most agree that we should encourage states to fix and maintain our roads and bridges that are in poor condition.
“The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law largely maintains the existing structure of state and local decision-making and the process for distributing highway funding by formula to states.
“However, the law also contains an unprecedented increase in funding for our nation’s surface transportation programs. The sheer size of this funding leaves no question in my mind — state and local agencies can both redouble their efforts to repair our roads, highways, and bridges and begin to address safety, sustainability, resilience, and other local priorities. We have an opportunity to walk and chew gum at the same time. Let’s do both!
“In closing, I hope we can all take this opportunity today to celebrate our transformational, bipartisan accomplishment. Too often, Americans see their elected leaders in Washington picking partisan battles that don’t achieve tangible results. By enacting this once-in-a-generation investment in our nation’s infrastructure, we demonstrated that bipartisanship is not only possible but essential.
“This new law is already beginning to grow our economy, create additional good-paying jobs, and make a positive impact on so many lives. It’s a major win for which we should all be proud. I am and I know that other members of this committee are as well.
“That being said, implementation is critical. Mr. Secretary, the work ahead of you and your team is immense. We know that you are focused on ensuring that the American people experience the benefits of the new law as quickly as possible.