In Rebuilding Baltimore’s Key Bridge, Cruz Calls for Congress to Act to Stop Bureaucratic Dithering

April 10, 2024

At nominations hearing, Cruz calls for expedited clearing of damage and quick construction of new bridge

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In his opening statement at today’s Senate Commerce Committee hearing to consider the renominations of Jennifer Homendy to be Chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Patrick Fuchs to be a Member of the Surface Transportation Board (STB), Ranking Member Ted Cruz (R-Texas) discussed the recent Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse and expressed his strong view that efforts to rebuild this project shouldn’t be slowed by bureaucratic dithering or lengthy environmental reviews. Sen. Cruz also highlighted Chairwoman Homendy’s leadership overseeing investigations on several high-profile transportation incidents at the NTSB and discussed how Mr. Fuchs’s extensive knowledge of the rail network has served Americans well during his time with the STB.

Here are Sen. Cruz’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Thank you, Chairwoman Cantwell and welcome, National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Homendy and Surface Transportation Board Member Fuchs.  I want to thank you both for your willingness to serve a second term at these posts.

“The NTSB serves the important function of thoroughly investigating transportation incidents to identify their causes and recommend changes to prevent similar incidents.  The NTSB also gives valuable information to Congress and federal agencies when developing transportation policy. 

“Chairwoman Homendy has performed her roles at NTSB well, advocating for safety regardless of the politics.  For example, she has correctly observed the dangers of electric vehicles because of their increased weight and the risk of battery fires.  She has worked diligently to investigate several high-profile transportation incidents, such as the derailment in East Palestine, Ohio; the door plug blowout of Alaska Airlines Flight 1282; and, most recently, the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore. 

“Chairwoman Homendy, I look forward to hearing from you about your plans for a second term as a member and the head of the NTSB, as well as an update on recent investigations including the 737 MAX 9.  I was troubled when my questions to you at last month’s hearing revealed that Boeing had not fully cooperated with the NTSB investigation into the 737 MAX 9.  I’m glad to see that, working together, we were able to get NTSB and Boeing’s relationship back on track.

“I also want to take a moment to address the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse.  First, this was a tragic incident, and my condolences to all the families of the six workers who died. Recognizing the NTSB is just beginning its investigation, I hope we hear an update today on any preliminary information that can be shared.

“Second, I want to discuss efforts to rebuild the Francis Scott Key Bridge.  I think the federal government needs to help to rebuild the bridge. Its collapse affects more than just the Baltimore region. With court cases likely taking years to resolve, it’s also sensible for federal taxpayers to front the money now with legal protections so taxpayers are paid back by the legally responsible parties.

“But it’s entirely reasonable to act now to fund it, but we must also minimize the bureaucratic dithering and delays that are all too prevalent with construction projects under this administration.

“Whether it’s a new semiconductor plant funded by the CHIPS Act, a cross-border bridge, or a deepwater port approval, this administration seems to only allow construction or economic activity after extreme environmentalists have given them a hall pass. There’s no reason for there to be lengthy environmental permitting reviews over whether to build a new bridge at the exact same location of the previous bridge. The bridge’s re-construction shouldn’t be delayed another day or subjected to policy riders that raise costs to satisfy favored Democrat constituencies.

“I hope this Committee will also hear from DOT officials who oversee reopening the port, federal transportation grants, and parts of the rebuilding process.  Today’s high CPI number shows inflation is still far too high and leading to higher prices at the grocery store, gas pump, and shopping mall for American families. The extended closure of the Baltimore Port will only throw fuel onto the raging Bidenflation fire by snarling supply chains and raising the costs of consumer goods.

“Given the importance of the port to the economy, one has to wonder - “is our country treating this like an emergency?”  I can’t help but think that China would have cleared the wreckage in days.  I hope this episode doesn’t become another punchline about a nation in decline or a symbol of our increasingly sclerotic and bureaucratic approach to public works projects.

“The second nominee we will hear from today is Patrick Fuchs.  He has been renominated to be a member of the Surface Transportation Board, or STB, which primarily oversees railroad rates, service, and practices.  

“Mr. Fuchs has extensive knowledge of the rail network and is an asset to the STB.  He has worked collaboratively on solutions to the challenges facing the network, which is reflected in the overwhelming preponderance of unanimous decisions the Board has issued during his tenure, as well as the fact that here in the audience today are so many of his Democrat and Republican board colleagues.

“He has also received support from a wide range of stakeholders.  Madam Chairwoman, I ask unanimous consent that these letters of support for Mr. Fuchs from many groups, such as the Teamsters and agriculture stakeholders, be included in the record.

“Thank you.  I look forward to hearing from both nominees.”