The “Big Four” leaders of the House Transportation & Infrastructure (T&I) Committee, and the Senate Environment & Public Works (EPW) Committee, each wrote exclusive guest columns for the January-February issue of ARTBA’s “Transportation Builder” magazine. We are reproducing these columns in Newsline. Rep. Bill Shuster is chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.
By Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.)
Over the last four years, the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee has been one of the most productive committees in Congress, with a record of success in moving large and oftentimes complex infrastructure bills through the legislative process. In the 114th Congress, the committee helped to enact 56 public laws, including the FAST Act, the Water Infrastructure Investments for America Act (WIIN Act), and important reforms for Amtrak.
An important part of our legislative process includes listening to input from a broad spectrum of transportation stakeholders, like ARTBA. Last Congress, we held 28 listening sessions and roundtables, and we plan to continue utilizing these valuable meetings in the coming year.
Despite last year’s contentious election cycle, the committee found common ground and worked in a bipartisan fashion for the American people. We look forward to continuing the committee’s tradition of accomplishment for our transportation network.
I am ready for us to roll up our sleeves and get to work building a modern, 21st century infrastructure for America. I am eager to apply the expertise the committee has developed, take advantage of the perspectives of new members, and work with House leadership, President Donald Trump, and our other House and Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle to do what we were elected to do: improve America.
We have a real opportunity to make improvements to our Nation’s infrastructure that will create American jobs and help retain our position in the global marketplace. From my conversations with President Trump and his team, I believe he gets the importance of infrastructure. I also believe Secretary Elaine Chao will bring the necessary leadership and expertise to the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT).
One of the committee’s priorities in the 115th Congress will be working with Secretary Chao to implement the FAST Act as Congress intended. This measure, the first long-term surface transportation reauthorization bill in over 10 years, provides a number of reforms and established important competitive grant programs, including the Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Project Program, known as FASTLANE.
Ensuring the Nation is connected by a safe, effective, and efficient transportation network is a clear federal responsibility, but it is carried out in conjunction with our non-federal partners. There must be significant flexibility in federal surface transportation programs for states to determine and address their most pressing needs. The FAST Act continues to provide direction and vision for a cohesive surface transportation system, but rightly provides much discretion to states in determining what projects to fund.
We all agree on the need to invest in our Nation’s infrastructure, but we need to do so in a fiscally responsible way. I remain committed to working with my colleagues to find those fiscally responsible solutions, and that includes exploring long-term solutions to address the challenges facing the Highway Trust Fund.
In addition to these priorities, the committee must pass an FAA reauthorization bill that includes significant agency reform and reorganizes the way we modernize our aging and inefficient air traffic control system. We must also pass another water resources development bill, a Coast Guard reauthorization, and FEMA and GSA reform bills. We must do this while promoting a vision for a 21st century infrastructure that enhances our global competitiveness, grows our economy, and provides a good quality of life for all Americans.
We face a number of challenges and opportunities, but I have found that the men and women of the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee are capable of great achievements. I have been honored to work with them, and I believe we can build on our established track record of success to advance a vision that returns America’s preeminence in transportation.