Since the first days of our nation, when the Constitution provided the Congress with the power to establish post roads and regulate commerce among the states, the federal government has played a significant role in providing for our country’s transportation and infrastructure improvements. Our roads, bridges, railways, waterways and runways have all made it possible for what was initially a collection of relatively independent states to truly become one nation, intimately connected over millions of square miles.
Infrastructure has always been the backbone of the United States economy. Our diverse and distant communities are tied together, and commerce thrives, because the American people have always understood the need for a cohesive, unifying transportation network.
Without safe and efficient transportation and infrastructure, the United States is “United” only in the abstract: a people with shared freedoms, ideals and values, but separated by our geography, as we were before the Erie Canal, the Transcontinental Railroad, and the Interstate Highway System.
Over the years, various committees of the House of Representatives have been charged with oversight of some form of public works or transportation. Today, the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure carries on the important work of predecessors, such as the Roads and Canals Committee (established in 1831), the Public Buildings and Grounds Committee (established in 1837), the Rivers and Harbors Committee (established in 1883), and others.
The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has jurisdiction over all modes of transportation: aviation, maritime and waterborne transportation, highways, bridges, mass transit, and railroads. The Committee also has jurisdiction over other aspects of our national infrastructure, such as clean water and waste water management, the transport of resources by pipeline, flood damage reduction, the management of federally owned real estate and public buildings, the development of economically depressed rural and urban areas, disaster preparedness and response, and hazardous materials transportation.
The Committee’s broad oversight portfolio includes many federal agencies, including the Department of Transportation, the U.S. Coast Guard, Amtrak, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the General Services Administration, the Army Corps of Engineers, and others.
Throughout the United States, there are more than four million miles of public roads, 19,700 civil airports, and over 138,000 miles of freight rail. Amtrak maintains billions of dollars in infrastructure assets, and 726 public transit agencies receive federal assistance. The General Services Administration owns or leases 9,600 assets and maintains an inventory of more than 362 million square feet of space. There are approximately 1,700 miles of levees, 650 dams and 383 major lakes and reservoirs, 12,000 miles of commercial inland channels, and 75 hydropower generating facilities owned by the federal government. The United States also operates and maintains waterways leading to 926 coastal, Great Lakes, and inland harbors and 241 individual lock chambers at 195 sites nationwide.
This vast and critical infrastructure impacts the lives of every one of us on a daily basis and is essential to maintaining our economic vitality and identity as the United States of America.
The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is one of the largest committees in Congress, and includes six subcommittees: