Ranking Member Boxer’s Opening Statement
DRIVE Act Business Meeting
June 24, 2015
(Remarks as prepared for delivery)
This is what I call a really good day in the United States Senate, and I hope it starts a trend. My Chairman, Senator Jim Inhofe, and I have negotiated, along with Senators Vitter and Carper, a strong, six-year surface transportation bill, which we are calling the DRIVE Act.
This bill comes not a minute too soon, because we are 38 days away from the expiration of the current highway program extension. Shortly after that, the Highway Trust Fund, which funds highways and transit, will go broke. That is what you call an emergency, because states rely heavily on the Highway Trust Fund.
We have 61,300 structurally deficient bridges in the U.S., and 50 percent of our roads are in less than good condition. That is unacceptable. Our transportation systems used to be the envy of the world, but now we lag behind our overseas competitors in infrastructure investment.
States and local governments rely on the federal government to fund their surface transportation programs – some states depend on federal resources for 60, 70, 80, 90 percent. Millions of American workers and thousands of businesses are relying on us to pass this transportation bill.
Here are some of the highlights in the bill:
1. Increased funding above current levels, which will begin to help us address the nation’s massive infrastructure investment backlog;
- A national freight program, which will dedicate billions of dollars per year to improving goods movement, vital to commerce and our economic security;
- Projects of national significance, which will target funds to the most deserving mega-projects that provide regional and nationwide benefits;
- Funding for transportation alternatives, to continue investing in active transportation projects that provide cost-effective transportation alternatives while also improving safety, protecting public health, and reducing congestion;
- A robust TIFIA program that meets the current needs, and I would remind colleagues that every dollar of TIFIA funding is matched by 30 or more dollars from private and government sources; and
- A new reform that allows local sponsors to get funding for their local projects rather than having to go to the states.
When we cooperate and really negotiate, everybody has to give up a little and set their priorities. During the negotiations of this bill, in order to get the things I just highlighted, there were things I had to agree to on accelerating project delivery, but these provisions do not undermine current environmental health and safety laws. They just speed things up.
I have been clear from the start that the Democratic Caucus would like to see an even more robust transportation bill, like the one President Obama has proposed.
That is why I will continue to work for a more robust bill, but I want to be clear that in my view it is incredible that we have been able to come together across the aisle to get this bill done. I want to thank Chairman Inhofe and his staff, as well as my staff, for getting us to this point.
Overwhelming bipartisan support for this bill will serve as a signal that we are serious about getting this done, and I hope that the momentum created by our action here today will encourage the other Committees in the House and Senate to move quickly to act.
I am so proud that Senator Inhofe has been able to win support for a robust bill. Yesterday I had the opportunity to talk briefly with Speaker Boehner, and he expressed to me his strong support for a six-year bill and spoke with pleasure that we have reached agreement on a bipartisan bill.