Chairman Crawford Statement from Hearing on IIJA Implementation Oversight
Opening remarks, as prepared, of Highways and Transit Subcommittee Chairman Rick Crawford (R-AR) from today’s hearing entitled, “Reviewing the Implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act”:
Our transportation network is essential to Americans’ mobility, supports our quality of life, and is vital to our economic competitiveness. Nearly one-and-a-half years ago, Congress passed and the President signed into law the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).
While I did not vote for the bill, our role today is to ensure effective and efficient execution of current law. IIJA provided historic funding increases to address America’s infrastructure, including over half-a-trillion dollars for programs under the Subcommittee’s jurisdiction. IIJA significantly increased funding for existing programs, created new programs with new eligibilities, and increased, by nearly 500 percent, the amount of competitive grant funding the Secretary will award.
Given the significant funding and discretion provided to the Secretary, it is essential that Congress performs its oversight role to ensure efficient and effective use of taxpayer dollars, and to ensure that the Administration is implementing IIJA consistent with the letter of the law. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) have distributed approximately $157 billion in formula funding to States and local entities.
In addition, FHWA, FTA, and the Office of the Secretary of Transportation (OST) have announced discretionary grants totaling about $9.6 billion. While the Department has made progress distributing formula funding and awarding discretionary grants, there are very important areas where progress has stalled. In some cases, the Administration is creating confusion among States and stakeholders, which could result in needless project delays.
For example, the Administration has not finalized its guidance on IIJA’s Buy America provisions that pertain to Federally funded infrastructure projects. OMB released initial guidance and later, proposed guidance; and agencies issued waivers and Questions and Answers (Q&As).
Each new release of information has exacerbated the confusion and uncertainty among stakeholders, which is concerning especially since most of the country is entering its construction season. We’ve also seen the Department push its own agenda, in direct contradiction of the law, through memorandum and executive action.
Last July, the Administration announced a notice of proposed rulemaking to require States and MPOs to create a new performance measure to cut greenhouse gas emissions stemming from transportation. However, requiring a rule related to greenhouse gas emissions was a policy considered during IIJA negotiations – in fact, it was debated at length, but “expressly excluded” from the final bill.
In another effort to exert its progressive policy preferences, FHWA released a December 16, 2021, memorandum that directed states to deprioritize projects that increased road capacity. This policy represented a complete departure from the successful and longstanding federal-state partnership, was inconsistent with the law, and was met with confusion from the States and concerns from industry stakeholders.
I was glad FHWA recently issued an updated memorandum superseding and effectively reversing the December 16, 2021, memorandum. In addition, the Administration has been using its notices of funding opportunity for discretionary grant programs to layer on requirements that do not exist in statute.
Each of the issues I outlined have caused confusion and have the very real risk of delaying critical projects. And as everyone here knows, any project delay results in increased costs – something we can’t afford in this environment of non-transitory high inflation, which is already eroding IIJA’s funding increases.
Oversight is not a Republican or Democratic issue. Congress must fulfill its duty to ensure IIJA is being implemented as written and that resources are addressing our most pressing transportation infrastructure and supply chain needs. I look forward to hearing from the panel about successes and where improvements can be made as the Department continues implementation of IIJA.I would also like to recognize and offer my condolences to the families of the six workers killed last week in a highway construction zone near Baltimore. This tragic situation underscores the need to ensure the safety of all roadway users, including construction workers who are simply trying to do their job and help improve America’s infrastructure.
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Tags: Highways and Transit