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Paul T.
Democrat NY 20

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  • Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure

    by Representative Paul Tonko

    Posted on 2013-01-15

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    TONKO. Sure. Thank you, Representative Garamendi. Thank you for bringing us together for this hour on the floor, where I think it's important to pay attention to the needs out there as they relate to the damages that were brought upon certain areas of the country by Mother Nature.

    Yes, there's been a lot of focus with this on Superstorm Sandy. That really had its presence felt just to the south of my given congressional district. However, there was some damages in the northern reaches of upstate New York, the more northern sections as we traveled north of the metro area.

    But suffice it to say, the need here for assistance by not only New York, but New Jersey and Connecticut, where the proper of New York, the metro area of New York City, Long Island, Westchester County, were impacted severely by this storm. As I said, on the fringe elements in my area, not as much. But certainly, New Jersey and Connecticut were hard hit.

    But just over a year before that storm, you're absolutely right, we were impacted by Irene and Lee, a double dose of damage that really impacted my given congressional district severely. It looked like a war-torn area, as was the case here with Superstorm Sandy.

    And this Nation, whenever impacted by natural or manmade disasters, found a response from Congress, that the President, whoever that person might be at the time, working with Congress, expedited the assistance, wanted to get that aid there with a high degree of urgency.

    What we saw here was uncalled-for delays as people languished. I mean, we have to look at the human element here, the human cost of 88 Americans that were impacted, lives lost because of this tremendous devastation, the impact that befell so many communities with infrastructure being damaged severely, if not destroyed totally.

    It was also about the impact on the business community, the loss to commerce, and certainly property damage that people are going to have to respond to over a long course of comeback that I have witnessed in my district with the storm, as you indicated, being more than a year ago.

    And so it is important for us, as a Nation, to be responsive and responsible. That has always been the measure coming forth from this Nation, understanding, with sensitivity, what needed to be done and getting aid to people. That's what it's all about.

    And so today, when finally a vote was taken, some 70 days after Superstorm Sandy hit, 70-plus days after the storm hit, finally we get a response, when so much pain and anguish was allowed to continue, unnecessarily so.

    The infrastructure issues in this country, storms aside, need to be addressed. The American Society of Civil Engineers has graded many of our bridges into a D classification, a poor grade, deficiencies that are out there brought to our attention.

    So not only do we need to respond to these tragedies and respond to our given infrastructure, but I think what happens here is an opportunity to come forward with job creation, providing for the trades and skilled tradespeople to be put to work. That is so important for our economy. It's so important for our public safety; it's so important for emergency response, as we've witnessed here in the northeast of the country.

    And so while the fight was long and at times unnecessary, at least the vote was taken today and we moved forward.

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