Cantwell Identifies Top Transportation Infrastructure Priorities; Calls For Robust Investment at Commerce Hearing

March 24, 2021

Opening Statement Video | Audio | Transcript

American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gives U.S. infrastructure a “C-“ grade 

Cantwell’s top three infrastructure bill priorities: mega projects, freight infrastructure investment, and highway-rail at-grade crossings

Without investment, the ASCE estimates the nation will lose $10 trillion in GDP by 2039

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation convened a hearing to examine surface transportation infrastructure needs across the country.

“We live in an ever-increasing global economy, where more than 95% of consumers live outside our borders. That means American workers and businesses need world-class infrastructure to reach customers, and we need to be competitive,” Chair Cantwell said. “Instead, the American Society of Civil Engineers gives the United States infrastructure a rating of C-minus. So, we definitely need to improve that grade. Right now, the United States only invests 0.7 percent of our GDP in transportation infrastructure. Other countries are investing up to eight times that amount, and the United States needs to make more investments if we are to remain competitive.”

The Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee is responsible for addressing intercity passenger rail, including Amtrak, freight, port, and multi-modal transportation infrastructure. Chair Cantwell outlined her top priorities to address as Congress works towards an infrastructure package.

“To me, three things are very clear, Chair Cantwell said. “One, Congress must provide funds to invest in mega projects that are important to our nation and to regional economies. Second, we've already seen that freight and infrastructure programs have helped our economy be more economically efficient, but more needs to be done. If we can ease the congestion on our roadways, and at rail crossings, and our ports, it only helps our economy grow. And third, I believe we need to do more on helping at-grade crossings, particularly because of rail congestion.”

A longtime champion of infrastructure investment, Chair Cantwell created the nation’s first multimodal freight grant program in 2016 to deliver $5.5 billion to freight projects across the country. To highlight that congestion problems facing our nation’s transportation system, Chair Cantwell shared a harrowing story from her home state of Washington.

“In my hometown, Edmonds, Washington, a train blocked the only access on the waterfront for three hours,” Chair Cantwell recounted. “This required first responders to literally crawl through the rail cars to aid a pregnant woman who was due to give birth.”

Chair Cantwell also discussed the challenges facing our nation’s ports at today’s hearing, specifically highlighting the congestion issues that are holding back our nation’s export economy and hurting competitiveness.

“We also need to help the serious congestion at our ports with containers. There are currently 26 ships anchored, idle, off the Port of L.A./ Long Beach, because they are not able to get to port,” Chair Cantwell said. “When ships are unable to get to port, too often foreign-owned carriers offload goods at American ports and then load up empty containers to go back to Asia, leaving U.S. exports behind. A recent investigation found between July and December of 2020, carriers rejected at least 1.3 billion in U.S. agricultural exports.”

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

Video of Chair Cantwell’s Q&A with witnesses can be found HERE, audio is HERE, and the transcript is HERE.