July 19, 2022

Chair DeFazio Statement from Hearing on Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Implementation

Washington, D.C. — The following are opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, from Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) during today’s hearing titled, “Implementing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.”

Video of DeFazio’s opening statement is here.

More information on the hearing can be found here.

Chair DeFazio:

Welcome to today’s hearing to examine the implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). Thank you, Secretary Buttigieg, for taking time to sit with this committee today.

We extend our appreciation to you in advance for what may be a long day, to ensure that every Member of our committee who wants to ask questions has an opportunity to do so. Given the pace with which the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has been getting IIJA money out the door, we know you would likely be working to implement this bill today if you were not here with us.

Last November, Congress enacted the largest one-time infusion of federal funds into our nation’s infrastructure and transportation network. The IIJA, also referred to as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, provided $660 billion for DOT to administer and distribute. This topline dollar amount, and the number of grant programs DOT must compete out, are significantly larger than any other past transportation authorization or infrastructure bill provided to the Department.
 
In the eight months since enactment of the law, DOT has apportioned the $75 billion in highway, transit, and airport formula funds provided in the IIJA for fiscal year 2022, and has issued Notices of Funding Opportunity for tens of billions more through 22 competitive grant programs. The dollar amounts and the pace at which they are going out is unprecedented.

The stakes are high to get this money out the door quickly to states, local governments, transit agencies, airports, ports, and passenger and freight railroads. Inflation is causing real pain for the American people, with ongoing supply chain woes adding to the challenge. There may not be a magic bullet to eliminate these problems overnight, but infrastructure has historically proven to be a solid investment in our nation, and today better roads and bridges, more efficient railroads and ports, and fewer bottlenecks are more important than ever.

So while many of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle choose to use every opportunity to criticize the White House on our common challenges, the truth is almost none of them voted for this bill. They all had an opportunity to vote for a piece of legislation that is not about massive federal programs. Instead, these are programs where the vast majority of the money flows from Congress, passes through the U.S. DOT to states and local governments, and lands at private sector construction and engineering firms, and the workers they hire, to build physical assets. IIJA funding will provide jobs in the near term in the transportation construction, transit, trucking, aviation, rail, and maritime sectors. And the projects the bill funds will bolster our economy, mobility, and quality of life in the long term.

But IIJA represents more than just a call to keep things humming along. Business as usual, or Eisenhower 8.0 as I have said repeatedly, was not going to cut it to address climate change and reduce carbon pollution. It was not going to improve safety or equity outcomes on our transportation networks. IIJA ushered in the first-ever federal highway grant funding directed at reducing carbon pollution, at reconnecting communities, and at vulnerable road users with a focus on the dangers of road design.

These and other programs and policy changes are now in the hands of U.S. DOT to execute. I applaud the Department’s efforts to date on this front as well. The steps you have taken to prioritize equity considerations in grants, the implementation of the Administration’s Justice40 Initiative, and ongoing work to ensure Disadvantaged Business Enterprises reap the benefits of IIJA funding are examples of making equity outcomes matter. Issuing the National Roadway Safety Strategy demonstrates that this DOT is serious about addressing the recent spike in traffic deaths, which includes a disproportionate increase for pedestrians and cyclists.

And you have taken actions to ensure that the carbon pollution reduction provisions of the IIJA are not just words on the page. By encouraging states—that’s right, encouraging, not mandating or penalizing or taking away decision-making authority from states—to evaluate and think creatively about how to maximize the efficiency of existing assets before adding capacity is one tool DOT has employed in this effort.

I will soon be sending a letter along with many of my colleagues to DOT in support of the Federal Highway Administration’s proposed rule to track GHG emissions from on-road sources on the National Highway System, and to require state DOTs and metropolitan planning organizations to set declining emissions targets. This is another necessary step in addressing the climate crisis, as we can’t improve what we can’t measure.

Finally, I’ll say to the critics of this Administration, who say that your actions are carrying out House ideas from the INVEST Act—our transportation system’s shortcomings, our planet’s challenges, and the need for a response can’t be ignored or wished away. Coming to the same conclusion after reviewing the same set of facts doesn’t mean collusion. Given our current reality, taking action to evolve how we move people and goods is responsible and appropriate — and that is what this administration is doing. I commend the steady hand with which you, Mr. Secretary, are guiding the implementation of this bill to date, to deliver for the American people.

Thank you, and I look forward to the testimony and today’s discussion.

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