WASHINGTON, D.C. — On June 5, 2024, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing on the U.S. Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) proposed budget for fiscal year 2025 and its implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act. 

Below is the opening statement of Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery:

“I would like to begin by welcoming our witness here today, Shailen Bhatt, the Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration. This is Administrator Bhatt’s third time appearing before this committee since he was nominated by President Biden, and we are grateful for both his willingness to serve as our Federal Highway Administrator, but also for joining us today. 

“The Federal Highway Administration — and the work it does to strengthen our world-class highway system — is essential to ensuring that both people and goods can get where they need to go. 

“As we all know, today’s hearing is an opportunity for our committee to conduct oversight of the Federal Highway Administration’s fiscal year 2025 budget request, as well as the administration’s implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act.

“Together, these laws have enabled the Federal Highway Administration to make once-in-a-generation investments in our nation’s roads, our highways and our bridges.

“I’d like to begin with a few words about the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

“As I have said before, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law represents the single-largest investment in our nation’s roads and bridges since the construction of the Interstate Highway System. And its enactment was due in large part to the hard-working members of this committee!

"The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is already having a transformative impact across our country. According to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, since the enactment of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, more than $128 billion in highway and bridge formula funds from this law have been used to support more than 70,000 new projects across America. 

“For example, in Delaware, we are using Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds to address congestion and safety at the I-95 and 895 interchange in New Castle County. In Arkansas, the City of West Memphis is restoring hundreds of acres of floodplain along the Mississippi River’s banks to protect major transportation routes. And in Arizona, the state is installing new protections to reduce wildlife vehicle collisions while increasing habitat connectivity for local species.

“And these projects aren’t just rebuilding our roads and bridges — they are creating tens of thousands of good-paying jobs. For example, according to the White House, the highway, street and bridge construction industry added an average of 2,800 jobs per month in 2023, which is four times the amount of jobs the industry was adding per month between 2011 and 2019. To date, over 15.4 million jobs have been created since President Biden took office. That’s more than the populations of Delaware, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and West Virginia combined!

“As our colleagues will recall, in addition to the investments that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is making in the Federal Highway Administration, the Inflation Reduction Act created three new programs at the agency. These new programs are helping to reconnect communities and neighborhoods while promoting use of lower-carbon construction materials, as well as providing resources to help expedite the environmental review process for transportation projects.

“While we have made progress toward rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure over the last few years, there is no shortage of challenges ahead for the Federal Highway Administration.

“The collapse of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge on March 26th was a terrible tragedy. As we know, six people lost their lives, and thousands more have had their daily lives upended by the loss of a critical highway link across the Baltimore Harbor.

“President Biden has committed to helping the people of Baltimore rebuild the bridge, and the Federal Highway Administration already has been — and will continue to be — a key leader in the recovery efforts. 

“As the recovery efforts continue, I hope that the Federal Highway Administration will continue to work closely with Congress and the other relevant federal agencies, as well as state and local leaders, to rebuild the bridge. This is a shared responsibility.

“And as climate change continues to impact our communities and our infrastructure, the Federal Highway Administration has an important role to play in reducing emissions from the transportation sector while improving the resilience of our transportation systems. Fortunately, through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, Congress has given the agency additional tools to address climate change.

“I am proud that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law included the first-ever climate title of any surface transportation law and that the fiscal year 2025 budget builds on this effort. As part of the climate title, Congress created the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program, which provided $7.5 billion to states for electric vehicle charging infrastructure. 

“But creating the NEVI program was just the first step. Accelerating the pace of installing EV chargers will require close partnership between the Federal Highway Administration and state Departments of Transportation throughout the country.  

“In the Inflation Reduction Act, Congress created the Low-Carbon Transportation Materials Grants Program to incentivize the use of lower-emitting construction materials on highway projects. Through this grant program, states can obtain funding to support cleaner construction materials that will reduce our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“It is also crucial that the Federal Highway Administration use all of the tools and resources provided by Congress in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to address the challenges of highway congestion and resulting supply chain bottlenecks. In addition to impacting the commutes of many Americans, bottlenecks can add up to a higher cost of doing business and result in significant environmental costs.

“Lastly, making our roads safer for all Americans is an ongoing challenge for the Federal Highway Administration. Thankfully, since the enactment of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we have started to see the number of roadway fatalities begin to decline after increasing for years. To continue this progress, the agency must continue working with states and communities to plan roadway designs that are safe for all users.

“The Federal Highway Administration’s fiscal year 2025 budget will help ensure the agency has the resources it needs to tackle challenges like these as it continues to modernize our nation’s roads, highways and bridges.

“And as we approach the third anniversary of the enactment of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the second anniversary of the Inflation Reduction Act later this year, it is important for us to take stock of the progress that has been made and the work that lies ahead.

“Today’s hearing will provide us with an opportunity to do just that. Administrator Bhatt, I look forward to hearing your testimony.”

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