Wednesday, September 14, 2022


For years, the running joke in Washington was “this week is infrastructure week.” The punchline grew from a simple contradiction: most lawmakers in Washington wanted to see an infrastructure package passed through Congress, but a final deal always felt just out of reach. From the moment President Biden assumed office, he brought together lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to tackle this priority. And now, with the enactment of the infrastructure modernization legislation that Congress passed and President Biden signed into law, we’re not only making good on our promise to deliver “infrastructure week” we’re making a down-payment on transportation investments that will move our nation forward for the next decade.

The centerpiece of this landmark legislation is an historic investment in transportation projects that touch all of our communities. In total, my state of Maryland will receive $7 billion in federal support for roads, bridges, tunnels, transit, and other transportation priorities over the next five years and those dollars are going out the door at this very moment. That’s on top of $3 billion in direct funding for the District of Columbia. These investments are more than just dollar figures they’ll make commutes easier for thousands of workers in our region, improve travel to and from the DMV, create good-paying jobs, and boost our economy.

First and foremost, money from this legislation will help fund local transportation projects within Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia that will get people where they need to go and drive economic growth. For example, I’ve been working with leaders in Prince George’s and Charles Counties to support a new Southern Maryland Rapid Transit (SMRT) system that will connect more Marylanders with jobs inside the Washington Beltway. I secured $5 million in direct federal spending for that initiative through my role on the Senate Appropriations Committee, and I’m glad that the infrastructure modernization law includes $1.8 billion over five years that can help fund projects like this one in our state. SMRT is just one example of how that money can be put to good use, with additional opportunities for new investments in electric buses, bike paths, and transit options in and around Maryland.

Right next door in Virginia, state leaders are working on similar projects, like building another two-track railroad bridge to link Arlington with Washington. This new bridge would alleviate traffic by complementing the service already provided by the Long Bridge downstream. Infrastructure law money for Virginia could help fund this initiative and slim down travel times for commuters in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington in one fell swoop.

Improvements to our transit, bridges, and roads go hand-in-hand with $6.5 billion over five years for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, which stretches from Washington, D.C. to Boston. Those funds will help Amtrak address priorities in Maryland like the much-needed replacement of the Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel linking Baltimore to Washington with a new tunnel named after Marylander Frederick Douglass and support projects all across the East Coast, including a potential investment in Washington‘s Union Station.

In addition to the formula funds that are already flowing into Maryland and the Washington region, the infrastructure law contains an array of competitive grant programs that will serve the DMV well. Among the highlights, these measures include a new competitive Bridge Investment Program I’ve been working to pass through Congress since 2019 that will provide funds to fix the over 270 bridges in Maryland and hundreds more across the country that are in desperate need of repairs. I also fought to include provisions based on a pilot program I authored to reconnect communities that have been split apart by infrastructure projects from the mid-20th century, including what is known as the “Highway to Nowhere” in Baltimore.

Lastly, the infrastructure law reauthorizes the $150 million annual federal contribution for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) for eight more years. Hundreds of thousands of Americans rely on the Metro to get to and from work and visit Washington for business and leisure. The infrastructure modernization law will provide funds to assist WMATA in cutting down wait times, ensuring more people can ride, and getting folks where they need to go faster than ever before. And our legislation also includes new provisions to strengthen the WMATA Inspector General’s authority to improve oversight and safety including the many critical challenges that WMATA must address.

Taken together, the key elements of the infrastructure modernization law will help grow more prosperity throughout the capital region by building out transportation options fit for the 21st century. Through these investments, we’ll be able to get people and products where they need to go faster and more efficiently, expand economic opportunity, and improve the quality of life throughout the DMV. I am proud of what Congress achieved last year by passing this landmark legislation, and I look forward to working with residents and community and business leaders across the region to ensure these investments are put to good use in the years to come.

• Senator Chris Van Hollen, Maryland Democrat, serves on the Appropriations, Foreign Relations, Budget, and Banking, Housing, & Urban Affairs Committees. He has worked successfully with members of both parties to pass bipartisan legislation whenever possible on issues of common concern, including protecting the Chesapeake Bay. Prior to the U.S. Senate, he served Marylanders in the State Legislature and U.S. House.

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