Cantwell Opens Hearing for Four Biden Admin Nominees Stressing Urgent Need for Robust Transportation Infrastructure Investments

June 24, 2021

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Bipartisan Surface Transportation Legislation Passed by Committee Lays Foundation for Comprehensive Infrastructure Investment Package 

Cantwell Also Pushes for Support on Safety and Workforce Issues 

WASHINGTON, D.C.— U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, held a hearing today to consider four Biden Administration transportation nominees, some of whom will have roles in the implementation of the infrastructure package Congress is currently considering. Today’s nominees included the Honorable Jennifer L. Homendy, of Virginia, to be Chair of the National Transportation Safety Board; Ms. Karen J. Hedlund, of Colorado, to be a Member of the Surface Transportation Board; Dr. Robert C. Hampshire, of Michigan, to be Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology at the  Department of Transportation; and Ms. Carol A. Petsonk, of the District of Columbia, to be Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs at the Department of Transportation.

“Last week the committee voted on and passed the Surface Transportation Investment Act…” Cantwell said. “This important bipartisan legislation makes a $78 billion down payment on rebuilding and revamping our nation's critical infrastructure, a key to our economic future and creating jobs. Together, this committee succeeded in passing legislation that makes infrastructure investment that we need to be competitive in a global marketplace, and some of the nominees that we are going to hear from today are going to help confirm that role.” 

Holding up a copy of the Seattle Times front page, Cantwell added: “…the front page at the Seattle Times is ‘Bounty of Containers Stresses Ports.’ So we've been saying that this is one of the reasons why we need an infrastructure bill because this level of increase in freight throughout, really the United States--my colleagues are probably seeing other things but this report says handling of 330,000 shipping containers has grown 38% compared to May 2020. So, these are problems that we hope to address…”

Ms. Hedlund discussed the freight congestion issue that Chair Cantwell raised in her opening statement. “I think the role of the STB is to gather information and to work collaboratively with other parts of the government to see if we can solve this problem, Ms. Hedlund said. “It is a very serious issue, you’ve seen pictures of 40 tankers out there on the Port of Los Angeles, the Port of Long Beach waiting to unload their containers.”


“Obviously, the concerns of this committee on aerospace and aerospace safety remain paramount,” Chair Cantwell said when discussing Ms. Homendy’s nomination. “This is an issue, like in all areas of automation and human response, whether we're talking about the rail sector or the automobile sector the aviation sector, we believe we need to give specific focus to this and so I look forward to hearing how you hope to use the NTSB to work with us on the legislation that we most recently passed, which called for safety trend reports to make sure that the most urgent safety needs are constantly being addressed.”

“Leading the department's research and development on technology programs will be very much needed and very important,” Chair Cantwell said to Dr. Hampshire. “The department's research efforts are key to advancing innovation and technology developments across the transportation sector, and helping develop a skilled interdisciplinary transportation workforce for the nation.”

And finally, when addressing Ms. Petsonk, Chair Cantwell said, “As we all know, building and reengaging our global partners on international cooperation for aviation safety standards that protect all of the flying public is also a big priority for our committee.”

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

Video of Chair Cantwell’s questioning with witnesses can be found HERE and HERE.

A transcript of the opening statement is HERE and the Q&A is HERE.