Polly Trottenberg Touts Biden’s Climate Change Agenda

Trottenberg speaks during the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing. (Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg News)

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President Joe Biden’s $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan would pave the way for programs that would address the impact severe weather events are having on certain ports, bridges, railways and transit systems, a senior transportation official told senators May 13.

At a hearing of the Senate Appropriations panel, Polly Trottenberg, deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Transportation, emphasized myriad actions and proposals the Biden administration is pursuing to respond to the emerging threat of climate change.

“At DOT, we are supporting the president’s aggressive goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 by investing in and accelerating a shift to clean transportation, including clean transit, trains, airplanes, ships and vehicles, as well as making walking and biking safer and easier. Furthermore, we have developed four key strategies to make our infrastructure more resilient,” she told the Senate panel.

“We can build stronger or better, or retrofit existing infrastructure to prepare for and adapt to changes in the climate, incorporating nature-based strategies that can help protect transportation infrastructure, such as constructed marshes to protect coastal highways, wherever possible,” she continued.

Specifically, Trottenberg pointed to aspects of the president’s infrastructure plan, called the American Jobs Plan, related to transit, rail and electric vehicles. Under Biden’s plan, $85 billion would be dedicated for transit, $80 billion for Amtrak and $174 billion would fund the nationwide adoption of electric vehicles. The plan calls for transportation officials to establish a national network of 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations by 2030. It also would consider the electrification of the federal vehicle fleet, including U.S. Postal Service vehicles.

“We are partnering with state, local and tribal agencies to evaluate the climate vulnerabilities of their transportation assets. We are piloting tools and metrics for resilience, like DOT’s ‘Resilience and 5 Disaster Recovery Tool Suite,’ which will help state and local agencies incorporate resilience into their planning,” she added.

Last month, the White House previewed its fiscal 2022 budget plan which would increase discretionary spending for transportation programs. Under the budget blueprint, the U.S. Department of Transportation would receive a 14% increase in discretionary funding. Specifically, the blueprint proposes $625 million for a passenger rail competitive grant program, as well as $375 million for Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement, or CRISI, grants. It would provide $2.5 billion for a transit grants program, and it includes $250 million in grants for transit agencies to purchase low- and zero-emission buses. Additionally, an infrastructure grants program would receive $1 billion.

According to the Office of Management and Budget on April 9, “The president is committed to making a once-in-a-lifetime, generational investment to significantly improve America’s transportation infrastructure, promote greater racial equity and economic inclusion, support good-paying union jobs, expand access to healthy transportation options that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and protect infrastructure from the impacts of climate change.”

On Capitol Hill, congressional leaders have yet to announce a schedule for considering either Biden’s infrastructure plan or the fiscal 2022 funding bills for federal agencies.

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