Fast Actby Senator Gary Peters
Posted on 2015-12-07
PETERS. Mr. President, I rise today to applaud the tremendous
work that has been done over the course of this year to pass a
bipartisan, 5-year, $305 billion highway bill, the Fixing America's
Surface Transportation Act, known as the FAST Act. Transportation
infrastructure is an essential part of the U.S. economy. It serves as
the foundation to support our country's economic global competitiveness
and connects communities, people, and markets.
Federal investment in transportation and other infrastructure has, unfortunately, lagged in recent decades, with public expenditures on infrastructure as a percentage of GDP steadily declining to its lowest levels in 20 years. I have consistently called for a highway bill that ensures steady and reliable funding for States so they can make long- term plans for improving our crumbling infrastructure. For too long, stopgap measures to prop up the highway trust fund for just a few months at a time have failed to provide the stability necessary to grow our economy.
The FAST Act comes at a critical time. This legislation will improve our Nation's infrastructure, make our Federal surface transportation programs work better for States, and address our Nation's infrastructure priorities by focusing on critical commerce corridors and emerging freight corridors as well.
The FAST Act also makes key investments in something I am very passionate about, and that is the future of mobility in the United States. Today, the auto industry is working hand in hand with tech, telecom, and software companies and their partners in academia and Federal agencies to collaborate and contribute to the transportation system of the future. This future will be dominated by connected and autonomous vehicles--on-demand services such as ride-sharing and car- sharing--and innovations in vehicle-to-infrastructure communications.
Vehicle-to-infrastructure communications technologies--known as V2I-- have the potential to deliver incredible safety, mobility, environmental, and operational benefits to the driving public. For example, V2I technologies will allow bridges that are icing up to be able to communicate directly with an automobile before it gets to the bridge and, as a result, will prevent an accident before it even occurs. Today, stakeholders are working to develop and test V2I technologies, and widespread deployment is expected in the coming years.
We have to make sure the States are making plans for their future in V2I technologies. That is why I introduced [[Page S8429]] legislation earlier this year with Senators Stabenow and Blunt that promotes investment in vehicle-to-infrastructure technology by authorizing States to use existing surface and highway transportation funding to invest in V2I projects as they upgrade their highway infrastructure. It is called the Vehicle-to-Infrastructure Safety Technology Investment Flexibility Act of 2015, and today I am proud to say this legislation passed as part of the FAST Act.
My vehicle-to-infrastructure provision and the broader bill's other major investments in research and development represent the type of forward-thinking policymaking on which Congress should be focused. By committing now to help usher in the future of mobility and by providing the funding and time to execute these programs, we have the ability to transform our society for the better.
The FAST Act also contains several provisions to improve rail safety in the United States. I am pleased that legislation I authored, in the wake of the devastating Amtrak No. 188 crash earlier this year in Philadelphia that unfortunately took the lives of 8 people and injured over 200, was included in the FAST Act. My provision requires the Department of Transportation, Amtrak, and the National Transportation Safety Board to conduct a post-accident assessment of the Amtrak No. 188 crash to determine if Amtrak followed its emergency preparedness and family assistance response plans and to determine if and how these plans can be improved for the future.
Finally, the FAST Act reauthorizes the Export-Import Bank. Since the beginning of July, the jobs supported by the Ex-Im Bank have been unnecessarily jeopardized. The Ex-Im Bank helps level the playing field for American companies in a tough global market. Last year it supported more than $27.4 billion in U.S. exports and 164,000 jobs. More than $10 billion of that total--nearly 40 percent--represented exports by small businesses, and 90 percent of its overall transactions directly supported small businesses, including many that serve as suppliers for large companies.
In Michigan, for example, the Ex-Im Bank has supported 229 exporter businesses selling $11 billion worth of goods to places such as Saudi Arabia, Mexico, and Canada. This support is particularly important for our manufacturing industry, and the majority of Michigan exporters using Ex-Im Bank are manufacturers of motor vehicles and parts, machinery and chemicals--basically the backbone of Michigan's economy.
I am proud to see that with the FAST Act's passage, we can get back to the business of doing what makes sense for the economy and for jobs in America.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Florida.