Americans are all too familiar with roadblocks – from potholes and road closures to “expect delays” signs and detours. Studies show that nearly two-thirds of our nation’s roads are in unsatisfactory condition, and at least a quarter of America’s bridges must be replaced. In fact, a report from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute converts these problems into costs, finding that Americans lose approximately $121 billion each year to traffic, fuel and lost productivity.
Nebraskans understand how important infrastructure is to the local economy and their daily lives. I have spoken with many families, consumers and business owners in our state. The message is loud and clear: Nebraskans want to see local projects completed and prioritized, not stalled because of red tape and partisan politics.
Congress has the opportunity to do this and keep our country moving by passing a long-term transportation bill. The legislation, known as the DRIVE Act, would allow for a six-year highway authorization. As a member of both the Senate Environment and Public Works and Senate Commerce Committees, I was proud to contribute to this strong and comprehensive transportation bill.
The DRIVE Act will help ensure local infrastructure projects can move forward with better and more defined processes. Throughout the course of developing this bill, I worked with local stakeholders in Nebraska, including our state Department of Roads, highway builders, and transportation leaders to gain first-hand knowledge of their needs.
When it comes to major infrastructure projects, our states deserve certainty from Washington. We must keep America’s motorists safe while maintaining our infrastructure. Unfortunately, Congress has routinely failed to provide certainty for planning and safety by avoiding the tough choices that a responsible federal government needs to make. Instead of doing a long-term bill, Congress has passed 34 short-term bills since 2009. States and local governments, businesses and the travelling public bear the burden of these short-term approaches. The consequences are outdated safety policies and lapsing infrastructure investment.
That is why I have championed meaningful provisions in the DRIVE Act to streamline the environmental permitting process for new projects. Right now, a new project must clear a variety of hurdles before builders can start construction. The DRIVE Act would establish new procedures, which are based on a template developed by the Transportation Secretary, to allow states and the federal government to determine which agencies must be consulted before launching a project.
It would also ensure projects are able to progress more swiftly, especially those that have limited environmental impact. States can then provide their own certification regarding the appropriate level of environmental review, rather than wasting time and taxpayer dollars waiting for the federal government. It is common sense and the right way to move forward.
The bill also includes important reforms to strengthen the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s regulatory process. This agency governs safety regulations for all commercial vehicles. Through the DRIVE Act’s reforms, we can enhance safety by strengthening cost-benefit analysis at the agency and ensure more public participation in the process.
The DRIVE Act is the successful product of hard work and bipartisan compromise. By working together, we can advance important road, bridge, and highway projects in Nebraska while enhancing safety on our nation’s roads.
I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass the DRIVE Act, a bill that the American people need and deserve.
Thank you for participating in the democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.