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Donna E.
Democrat MD 4

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  • Providing for Consideration of Conference Report on H.R. 22, Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015

    by Representative Donna F. Edwards

    Posted on 2015-12-03

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    EDWARDS. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding.

    I am pleased to be here as a conferee to the conference that worked to resolve the difference between the House and Senate versions on the surface transportation reauthorization.

    A huge thank you goes to Chairmen Shuster and Graves and Ranking Members DeFazio and Norton and their committees and personal staff for all the work that was put in to get us to this 5-year authorization.

    The fact is that America is literally falling apart. I am glad that we are going to be sending the President a long-term authorization this week. Making our infrastructure work and work for us smarter is really critical.

    {time} 1000 The bill does a lot to support research, development, and the deployment of transportation technology.

    I am pleased with the overall research title, including specific investments in hazardous materials, R&D, and traffic congestion mitigation, but I do have a couple of concerns with oversight.

    The Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office was moved out of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology and into the Federal Highway Administration. We have to be vigilant that this move doesn't undermine the multimodal coordination of ITS research and development.

    A new deployment program was funded through a large tax on existing R&D programs. While I support the deployment program, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that today's R&D investments enable tomorrow's new deployment opportunities. So we shouldn't be shortsighted.

    Nonetheless, I support the FAST Act. It is a bipartisan, bicameral, long-term authorization to fund highway transit, highway safety, motor carrier safety, hazardous material safety, and even passenger rail programs and projects.

    Let me be clear. It is not the bill I would have written, and it is definitely not perfect, including some of the problematic pay-fors that have been discussed today. But it will provide certainty, invest in America's infrastructure, and create good-paying American jobs.

    The bill is funded at the higher Senate-approved level, which is important.

    I am happy to have worked in a bipartisan fashion with my colleagues on the floor and in committee to make a difference in people's lives.

    In our region, our Senators, Representatives Norton and Comstock, and I have provided new and direct Federal oversight of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

    We have also worked to include transit-oriented development eligibility in TIFIA. Yes, this would mean that many of the transit- oriented projects across the Nation, in the metropolitan Washington region, and in my county, Prince George's County, along the Green Line, will now be able to qualify for Federal financing because most transit- oriented development infrastructure projects are less than the $50 million threshold that TIFIA currently requires.

    In working with several Members, we were able to restore funding for the High Density States program that will allow transit systems in these States to maintain jobs, service, and service frequency and continue to help those who rely on public transportation.

    Though I oppose today's rule, we have to enact a bill that will construct and rebuild our road, bridge, transit, and rail infrastructure that creates jobs here at home and enables the United States to compete internationally in the 21st century.

    This is a good first step. Let's not stop here. Let's continue to work in this fashion to rebuild America's infrastructure.

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