Cantwell Calls for Increased Investment in Transportation Infrastructure at Hearing with DOT Nominee

March 3, 2021

Opening Statement Video | Audio | Transcripts 

Airports have lost $23 billion and transit agencies face $50 billion in losses due to COVID crisis, DOT estimates $50 billion in revenue loss over next five years 

Trottenberg vows to increase safety measures for at-grade railroad crossings 

American Society of Civil Engineers estimates $5.6 trillion infrastructure investment necessary or U.S. economy could lose more than $10 trillion in GDP 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, the Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, secured important commitments from Ms. Polly Trottenberg, nominee to be Deputy Secretary of the Department of Transportation, relating to transportation and freight infrastructure and investment. Chair Cantwell highlighted Ms. Trottenberg’s relevant experience in the transportation sector and addressed the serious funding challenges this industry faces in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Ms. Trottenberg is eminently qualified for this role, after 30 years of transportation expertise already under her belt, most recently, with the city of New York as Transportation Commissioner from 2014 to 2020,” Chair Cantwell said. “I think she has a great understanding of our nation's transportation needs…[she] is a tireless advocate for equitable and important transportation projects throughout our major cities…and was responsible for implementing legislation, developing key transportation initiatives, including starting up the TIGER grant program, now known as the BUILD discretionary grant program”

American Society of Civil Engineers, in a new report released this morning, has estimated that without a $5.6 trillion investment in infrastructure over the next two decades the U.S. economy could lose $10.3 trillion in GDP. “So we have the COVID story of lost revenue, and we have [an] assessment by our civil engineers saying we need much more investment in transportation infrastructure. So facing this economic outlook it's critical that we have someone with Ms. Trottenberg’s leadership and expertise to help us in the transportation sector,” Cantwell said.

In her questioning with Ms. Trottenberg, Cantwell noted the importance of efficient and adequately funded transit lines and asked Ms. Trottenberg is she believes additional support is needed to help transit agencies nationwide deal with the significant shortfall from the pandemic.

Ms. Trottenberg replied, “The plummeting ridership, the need to invest in more sanitation protocols and cleaning protocols, and workforce protection has left a lot of transit agencies reeling. I know that Congress has already, in some of its relief packages, taken some great steps to help the transit agencies recover. I think we will probably need to continue to work together on that. We certainly, just as you're mentioning in Sound Transit, we don't want to see important capital projects derailed for all these systems all over the country, it would be very hard to come back and make up that last ground.”

Chair Cantwell also mentioned the need to increase freight infrastructure programs and secured Ms. Trottenberg’s commitment to do so. Trottenberg said, “Certainly it hit home for all of us how absolutely crucial our supply chain was, our need to move freight, to make sure we were keeping our supermarket stocked, our industries moving in these challenging times…I think there's a lot more we can do to strengthen the nation's freight network and make sure we sort of remain in a position of, you know, dominant global competitiveness when it comes to our supply chains.”

Finally, Cantwell brought up at-grade crossings of railroads that help move products across the nation, emphasizing that there are 128,000 public railroad crossings in the U.S., 62% of which are in rural communities. She secured Ms. Trottenberg’s commitment to make changes to relieve some of the challenges railroads face in terms of safety and capacity.

Video of Chair Cantwell’s opening statement can be found HERE and audio is HERE.

Video of Cantwell’s Q&A with Ms. Trottenberg can be found HERE and audio is HERE.

Transcripts can be found HERE.