WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., today convened the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation for its hearing titled, “America’s Infrastructure Needs: Keeping Pace with a Growing Economy.” The hearing focused on the current state of infrastructure and opportunities for improvement, including public and private funding, support for multimodal connectivity, and rural development.
Excerpt from Chairman Wicker’s opening statement, as delivered, below:
Infrastructure impacts nearly every corner of our country and economy — the corn and soybeans grown in the Midwest that are shipped through the Port of Seattle, the $323 billion in goods shipped each year to and from Colorado primarily by truck, the manufactured products moving through the port of Anchorage, the 150 million tons of freight traveling by rail through West Virginia each year, and the billions of dollars of machinery shipped to and from Mississippi each year.
Unfortunately, what was once the envy of the world, our infrastructure system has fallen behind on what is required to maintain America’s competitiveness in a global market.
The American Society of Civil Engineers report card gives our infrastructure a grade of D+. Our ports are congested. Millions continue to be without access to high-speed internet. Americans spend eight billion hours stuck in traffic each year. As an example, Los Angeles drivers spend 102 hours a year in traffic during peak times, while London drivers spend only 74 hours a year. In Mississippi alone, there are thousands of structurally deficient bridges. These statistics mean fewer jobs, less time with family, lower economic growth, or worse.
Fortunately, improving our infrastructure is an area where bipartisan agreement and cooperation can be found. This Committee already has built upon and will continue to build on this history of bipartisanship as it relates to transportation and infrastructure legislation.
Just last week, we kicked off the 116th Congress with a hearing on 5G technology and the societal benefits of maintaining American leadership in innovation. 5G has the ability to usher in a new era of connectivity through facilitation of cutting edge medical services or autonomous and connected transportation technologies — that allow vehicles to talk to each other or to communicate with roads, bridges, or traffic signals in order to reduce accidents and increase mobility.
Last fall, the Committee led Congress in passage of the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act, which authorized the federal aviation transportation programs for five years, promoting airport infrastructure, safety, and American leadership in aviation.
Additionally, led by our friends over at the Committee on Environment and Public Works, where I serve with many members of this committee, the 115th Congress authorized our water resources infrastructure programs by passing the America’s Water Infrastructure Act.
While less recent, the Committee played a prominent role in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation in 2015. The FAST Act — a five-year bill to improve our nation’s infrastructure — provided long-term funding certainty for transportation infrastructure investment. It also improved surface transportation safety, enhanced economic growth, increased freight connectivity, and streamlined project delivery. This important legislation expires in 2020.
Working with our colleagues on the other relevant committees, the Commerce Committee will continue to work on the future of our infrastructure system. Our committee has broad jurisdiction over issues affecting ports, rail, trucking, aviation, and telecommunications.