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Monday, May 23, 2022

OPINION:

What does the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act mean? It means better roads, bridges, transit systems, rail, cycling and walking infrastructure, water infrastructure, ports, airports and increased broadband in districts across the nation. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act authorized $660 billion for all Department of Transportation programs, including $108 billion for transit investments. That represents a 67% increase for transit over the previous surface transportation bill, and will deliver better rail, bus, paratransit and ferry service across the country. The District of Columbia will see a significant increase in transit investment—after receiving just under $200 million for transit in 2021, we are receiving over $300 million for transit in 2022. Consistent with the Biden-Harris administration’s “Justice 40” initiative, more resources provided by this bill will reach communities that have been underserved or harmed by past infrastructure investments.

Safety, equity and reducing carbon pollution are key priorities and principles that guided my subcommittee’s work on the INVEST in America Act. There needs to be a concerted effort to combat climate change and carbon pollution from transportation. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act begins the shift that we must make to reduce carbon pollution from transportation and make assets more resilient to the effects of climate change. We made a strong investment in addressing climate change by providing $44 billion for programs to achieve carbon reduction and resilience, including $8.7 billion through a new PROTECT grant program to help states, local communities, tribes and territories mitigate the harm from natural disasters. Furthermore, we secured $7.5 billion in electric vehicle charging investments, plus an additional $5 billion for new low- and zero-emissions electric school buses under a new clean school bus program administered by the Environmental Protection Agency. And here in the District of Columbia, where many of our kids walk, bike and rely on transit to get to school, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act invests $150 million each year in the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to help improve Metro’s reliability for our region’s travelers.


With passage of the fiscal year 2022 omnibus appropriations bill, many of the benefits of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will now be fully unlocked. Transit agencies will receive higher funding and the Federal Transit Administration can begin work on new programs that support the purchase of modern rail cars and low-emission ferry boats and make transit stations more accessible to those with disabilities. State departments of transportation, cities and metropolitan planning organizations can begin to maintain and bring our roads and bridges up to a state of good repair.

Expanding and supporting safe, clean and reliable transportation options have been a hallmark of my career in Congress. During my time as Chair of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, I have held dozens of hearings on what needs to be done to maintain and modernize our transportation network, and how to move people and goods safely, efficiently and equitably. Most recently, these hearings have looked at the impacts of traffic enforcement on equity and safety, the role of ferries in improving mobility, the impacts of automated vehicles, and ensuring a robust and diverse workforce from our local communities to capitalize on the job opportunities created by these investments in our nation’s infrastructure. Next Congress, I hope to serve my colleagues as Chair of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure to ensure the historic investments secured in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act are fully delivered to our local communities.

We are at a pivotal moment in our nation’s history. Investing in essential infrastructure will make our communities safer, more resilient, more livable and more equitable for our children and for future generations.

• Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, District of Columbia Democrat, is the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit Chair. In addition to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, she serves on the Committee on Oversight and Reform. She was instrumental in bringing to D.C. the headquarters for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Transportation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and an additional Metro station at New York Avenue.


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