Republicans Organize, Renew White House Criticism

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A new session of Congress means new assignments for policymakers in both chambers.

And, for the next two years, a group of House Republicans has gained seats on the influential Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

The panel, which recently helped advance a $1.2 trillion infrastructure law, often has served as a venue for crafting measures key to the safety and efficiency of the nation’s mobility corridors.



The new Republican members to the committee include Brandon Williams of New York, Eric Burlison of Missouri, John Duarte of California, Mike Ezell of Mississippi and Derrick Van Orden of Wisconsin.

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Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.)

Graves 

Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.) expressed optimism about his caucus’ ability to produce provisions and policy instruments that would be vital to rural and urban congressional districts.

“The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is highly sought after by both sides because of the direct impacts these issues can have on people’s lives,” Graves said Jan. 17. “Improving our nation’s infrastructure and ensuring an efficient transportation supply chain are the types of improvements that can significantly better the day-to-day lives of our constituents. So, I congratulate and welcome the members who will serve on the committee.”

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Rep. Burgess Owens

Owens 

The new Republican roster also includes Reps. Burgess Owens of Utah, Tracey Mann of Kansas, Rudy Yakym of Indiana, Lance Gooden of Texas and Aaron Bean of Florida.

The chairman highlighted tasks awaiting colleagues in the coming months, such as an update of Federal Aviation Administration operations, a water infrastructure bill, safety legislation related to the U.S. Coast Guard and modernizing the nation’s pipeline networks.

“I look forward to working with all members of the committee as we aim to develop solutions to improve our infrastructure, strengthen transportation programs, and help alleviate ongoing energy and supply chain problems,” added Graves, while pledging to increase oversight of the Biden administration’s implementation of 2021’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

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Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)

Barrasso 

Senate Republicans also intend to press President Joe Biden’s directives as they review his tenure. Graves’ Republican colleague, John Barrasso of Wyoming, took aim at the White House’s policy record. Barrasso issued Biden a failing grade. The president’s party will be governing from the minority’s perspective during the 118th Congress.

“For two years, Joe Biden has waged a war on Wyoming and American energy. He’s driven inflation to a 40-year high and borrowed trillions of dollars to pay off his liberal base. President Biden caused the worst border crisis in history,” Barrasso, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, said in a statement Jan. 20. “As commander-in-chief, he embarrassed the nation with his deadly surrender to terrorists in Afghanistan. The American people want more American energy, lower inflation, a strong military, a secure border and safe communities.”

We must harness investment and ingenuity to create good-paying jobs and ensure that innovative technologies are safe and accessible.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg

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Pete Buttigieg

On matters related to infrastructure, the administration is touting a tranche of funding for bridge and highway projects. This month, the Department of Transportation issued a multiyear strategic plan for connecting emerging technologies with safety systems.

As Secretary Pete Buttigieg observed, “We must harness investment and ingenuity to create good-paying jobs and ensure that innovative technologies are safe and accessible so that no matter who you are or where you live you will see the benefits of these investments in transportation.”

The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)

Jan. 25, 9 a.m.: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, along with the departments of Transportation and Homeland Security hosts: “Transportation Sector Efforts to Combat Human Trafficking: The Power of Public-Private Partnerships.”

Jan. 25, 2 p.m.: House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) and Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.) promote legislation aimed at enhancing government accountability and transparency.

Freight Corridor

Weather events continue to complicate California mobility networks.

Legislative Docket

The Transportation Research Board earlier this month offered updates on electric vehicles, the $1.2 trillion infrastructure law and highway safety programs.

“The industry is going electric,” Secretary Pete Buttigieg said at the annual gathering of transportation experts, policymakers and enthusiasts in Washington. It’s true here and it’s true around the world.” The secretary added that Biden administration investments linked to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act are designed to facilitate access to the technology.

Addressing conference attendees during a different panel, Nuria Fernandez, leader of the Federal Transit Administration, ensured stakeholders that plenty of opportunities remain for accessing the resources, benefits and funds connected to the infrastructure law.

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Nuria Fernandez

Fernandez 

“We have year one under our belt,” the transit chief said specifically about the IIJA, which was enacted in November 2021. “We still have four years to go with the funding. So it doesn’t all have to happen now.”

She added, “Our doors are open. We have really built up our public engagement and listening to not just those who are grant recipients, but to those who are affected in communities across this nation that feel that they have not been heard or they want to see things different.”

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Avery Ash

Ash 

Mobility analytics firm INRIX showcased its features and applications at TRB’s exhibit hall. The firm recently announced a collaboration with General Motors to provide services meant to improve safety along highways. The “Safety View” cloud-based application is designed to assist agencies with “Vision Zero” plans to arrive at a system of zero traffic-related deaths.

Avery Ash, INRIX’s head of autonomous mobility, told Transport Topics the “Vision Zero” plan for cities “has to come with a time-bound date and a target number.”

He added, “Oftentimes, that goal can be to reduce crashes to zero, so the ‘zero’ in ‘Vision Zero,’ by ‘x’ date in the future.”

Buzz

A group of House lawmakers introduced a bill that would facilitate freight workforce access at ports. The Ceasing Age-Based Trucking Restrictions Act awaits committee consideration.

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As the kids used to say: It’s all about the Benjamins.

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Best Wishes, Warmest Regards.

The Last Word

The people [Housing and Urban Development] serves deserve clean, affordable transportation options.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge on Jan. 10

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Marcia Fudge

We publish Mondays when Congress is in session. See previous installments of Capitol Agenda here. Email emulero@ttnews.com with tips. Follow us @eugenemulero and @transporttopics.

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