Policymakers Push Safety Focus as IIJA Turns 2
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WASHINGTON — Happy birthday to the bipartisan infrastructure law. The $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act turns 2 on Nov. 15.
This month, President Joe Biden and members of his Cabinet are touring the country to highlight projects and programs they say have benefited from the law.
Amtrak-centric projects along the Northeast, for example, recently received about $16 billion thanks to the law.
“ ‘Bidenomics’ and President Biden’s ‘Investing in America’ agenda are tackling long-standing infrastructure needs, supporting communities nationwide and making it possible to get people and goods where they need to be safely, quickly and conveniently,” according to the White House on Nov. 6. “The president’s bipartisan infrastructure law makes the largest investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak, with a $66 billion total investment in rail.”
Other modes, such as transit and ports, also were recently awarded significant funds for connectivity upgrades.
Here’s the difference on infrastructure:
President Biden today announced more than $16 billion to make train travel faster, easier, and more reliable.
Republicans in Congress are proposing to slash Amtrak’s budget and make train travel slower, harder, and less safe. — The White House (@WhiteHouse) November 7, 2023
“Everything from the food we eat to the cars we drive to the lumber and steel used to build our homes passes through America’s ports, making them some of the most critical links in our nation’s supply chain,” Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Nov. 3. “These investments will help expand capacity and speed up the movement of goods through our ports, contributing to cleaner air and more good-paying jobs as we go.”
On Capitol Hill, Democrats continue to highlight the law’s potential impact.
“That’s a bill that really first took shape right here in this room. And which enjoyed enormous bipartisan support and became — maybe — the most substantial, meaningful infrastructure package in the history of our country,” Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the highway policy panel, said Nov. 7. His Democratic colleagues, including Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Ed Markey of Massachusetts, say the law’s two-year mark is an opportunity to revisit a slew of safety concerns. The two senators, as well as other senior members of their caucus, keep calling on the U.S. Department of Transportation to adopt or pursue policies aimed at improving safety throughout freight and commuter corridors.
“Last year, nearly 43,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes. While this number represents a slight decrease from 2021 — the deadliest year on the road in 16 years — bold action is necessary to address this road safety crisis,” the senators wrote the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Nov. 7. They included Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
Sens. Amy Klobuchar (left), Elizabeth Warren
“There is no doubt our nation is at a critical moment for traffic safety, and NHTSA’s task of implementing the much-needed IIJA safety provisions will determine whether we continue our progress and leave traffic fatalities in the rearview mirror. We, therefore, urge NHTSA to continue the work of reversing the frightening trend of motor vehicle fatalities, and swiftly implement key safety provisions in the IIJA.”
The senators emphasized provisions related to recall completion rates, seat back safety standards, automatic vehicle shutoffs, crash avoidance technologies, driver monitoring systems, hood and bumper standards and performance-based standards for vehicle headlamps.
Earlier this year, NHTSA determined that 42,795 individuals died in 2022 in motor vehicle traffic crashes.
The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)
Nov. 14, 10 a.m.: The House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee meets for a hearing titled, “Guardians of the Sea: Examining Coast Guard Efforts in Drug Enforcement, Illegal Migration and IUU Fishing.” Witnesses include Rear Adm. Jo-Ann Burdian, assistant commandant for response policy, United States Coast Guard; and Heather MacLeod, director, Homeland Security and Justice, U.S. Government Accountability Office.
Nov. 15, 10 a.m.: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee meets for a hearing titled, “Opportunities in Industrial Decarbonization: Delivering Benefits for the Economy and the Climate.” Witnesses include Shannon Angielski, president of the Clean Hydrogen Future Coalition.
This month, a Senate panel examined proposals meant to advance funding for truck parking projects. The Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, would approve grants for state agencies specific for the expansion of truck parking facilities. A companion version of the bill was approved by a House panel earlier this year.
Specifically, the bill would authorize $755 million through fiscal 2026 to expand parking access for commercial vehicles. Under the bill, state agencies would be tasked with adding parking to existing facilities and assisting with the construction of new facilities.
“Truck drivers do the hard work to keep our supply chains moving, and it’s our responsibility to protect their safety and well-being,” said Rep. Angie Craig (D-Minn.), a co-sponsor in the House.
On Sept. 13, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced more than $80 million in grants is available for highway safety programs, such as parking projects. Transportation agencies in Louisiana, Florida and Tennessee were awarded grants specific for truck parking facilities. The funding was approved primarily through 2021’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
It’s the end of an era. On Nov. 8, the majestic Mei Xiang, Tian Tian and their cub Xiao Qi Ji hopped on FedEx’s Boeing 777F “Panda Express” to return home to China. The former National Zoo lovable fixtures never failed to help make people smile.
On social media, the National Zoo sought to capture the moment: “Whether he was somersaulting down a snow-covered hill, splashing in a tub filled with suds or snacking on bamboo shoots, giant panda Tian Tian captured the hearts of millions with his chill and goofy personality. We wish him safe travels to China.”
Mei Xiang, Tian Tian and Xiao Qi Ji have landed in Chengdu! After a safe flight, they are on the way to their new home. Our team will stay for a few days as the pandas get settled. Thank you to @FedEx for transporting our Very Important Pandas in style! #PandaStory pic.twitter.com/ATOzp1U8Ev — National Zoo (@NationalZoo) November 9, 2023
You Stay Classy, New Jersey.
Mort Downey, aka "Mr Transportation," passed away last week. He was very proud of his 8 years as Deputy Secretary of @USDOT as evinced by his personalized plate. My summary of his 60-some year career in transportation policy is here: https://t.co/que1fJA6BN pic.twitter.com/cko8viSGnM — Jeff Davis (@JDwithTW) November 6, 2023
The Last Word
The federal permitting process has become a yearslong slog which discourages investment and innovation altogether.
Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) on Nov. 1Image
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