WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, held a hearing entitled, “Building Back Better: Investing in Transportation while Addressing Climate Change, Improving Equity, and Fostering Economic Growth and Innovation.” Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), as prepared for delivery:
“Thank you, Chairman Carper, for your leadership and partnership on today’s hearing to kick-off the process for the surface transportation reauthorization bill.
“I’d also like to thank our witnesses.
“We look forward to hearing your perspectives on surface transportation policy.
“Mr. Chairman, I appreciate our regular conversations on the bill and other important matters before the Committee.
“I was encouraged by the conversation we had with President Biden, Vice President Harris, and Secretary Buttigieg two weeks ago at the White House.
“The meeting signified a commitment by the administration to ensure that the bill becomes a reality.
“The bill is one of my top priorities as the Ranking Member.
“It is about more than just building our transportation infrastructure.
“The bill can help facilitate a recovery from a pandemic that has devastated our constituents and wreaked havoc on our economy.
“Transportation infrastructure is the platform that can drive economic growth now and in the future and create jobs, while also improving the quality of life for everyone.
“I am optimistic that we can deliver a bill before the current extension expires on September 30th.
“Our committee has a strong track record of developing these bills in a bipartisan manner.
“We passed one out of committee 21-0 in 2019 that represented bipartisan consensus on issues such as climate change and expediting project delivery.
“We can come together and once again use a bipartisan process to develop the bill that includes priorities from both parties.
“I know such a process is what you want as well, Mr. Chairman.
“From my perspective, a surface transportation reauthorization bill must provide long-term investment in our nation’s roads and bridges in a fiscally responsible manner, without partisan or “lightning rod” pay-fors that could sink a bill; give flexibility to our states and communities to address their unique transportation needs; keep the federal interest focused on providing a connected network of roads and bridges to ensure that all communities and the economy can thrive; facilitate the efficient delivery of projects so that we can improve the safety and resiliency of our surface transportation system; and drive innovation to help pave the way for the system of the future.
“As we will hear from our witnesses today, certainty of funding, consistency of regulations, and flexibility to tailor investments to suit the diverse needs of states and rural and urban communities is essential.
“In West Virginia, we need additional highway capacity and bridge improvements to improve safety and increase efficiency.
“Corridor H is one of my biggest West Virginia transportation priorities.
“I’ve been working on this throughout my time in Congress, and it’s the last piece of the Appalachian Development Highway System needed to better-connect West Virginia for intrastate and interstate travel.
“Our job is to provide a policy and programmatic framework that recognizes the different transportation needs across the country while balancing important national goals.
“We also need to efficiently deliver projects that improve our roads and bridges.
“With an average of seven years to complete an environmental impact statement for a highway project, surely everyone can agree that this process should be reviewed and improved upon.
“We also need to look at other issues that can impact the delivery of projects and create a better process to move them from concept to completion.
“For example, removing impediments to constructing reliable high-speed broadband across the country in concert with road projects.
“We cannot afford to delay the benefits to state and communities that come from these projects.
“We should be forward leaning in tackling the transportation needs of today and tomorrow.
“Driving innovation will be critical to supporting the surface transportation system of the future.
“It will also aid in our efforts to reinvest in the existing system.
“That includes cutting-edge technologies, like the Virgin Hyperloop, which will be tested and certified in Tucker and Grant Counties in West Virginia.
“I am committed to working on the issues that are important to my friends on the other side of the aisle. I know that they are willing to do the same thing.
“There is also a lot of common ground between our sides.
“We share the same goal, getting a bill across the finish line that delivers on addressing the transportation needs of our entire nation.
“I do want to temper my optimism with a word of caution.
“The strong bipartisan support that exists for a surface transportation reauthorization bill and other infrastructure legislation will not extend to a multi-trillion dollar package that is stocked full with ideologically driven, one-size-fits-all policies that tie the hands of states and communities.
“I look forward to being a partner in advancing infrastructure legislation in a bipartisan way.
“Thank you Mr. Chairman. I yield back my time.”
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