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March 8, 2021 3:00 PM, EST

Sen. Ed Markey Pushes Climate-Focused Transportation Bills

MarkeyMarkey at a past interview. (Graeme Sloan/Bloomberg News)

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A group of Democratic senators recently introduced legislation designed to initiate reductions of greenhouse gas emissions on the nation’s highways.

Sponsored by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the Generating Resilient, Environmentally Exceptional National, or GREEN, Streets Act, would activate standards for states to use for the reduction of emissions and per capita miles traveled across the federal highway system.

“Business-as-usual is building bad highways and breaking our planet — we can build smarter, safer and healthier systems if we factor climate impacts and emissions into our decision-making process,” said Markey, who sits on the Environment and Public Works Committee. The panel oversees surface transportation policy.

“We can advance the goals of clean energy, climate progress and healthy communities, as well as fortify ourselves against the adverse impacts of climate change. An essential component of that effort is to re-envision how we plan for, construct and maintain our national highway system, using climate measures that matter and ensure that we hold systems accountable,” Markey added.

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Specifically, the bill would direct the transportation secretary to establish minimum standards for state agencies to follow for decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and per capita vehicle miles traveled.

The legislation would direct the secretary to establish metrics for assessing and reducing such emissions, and require certain states to dedicate federal highway funding to promote compliance. Additionally, the bill would require states and Metropolitan Planning Organizations to consider projects and strategies that help reduce per capita vehicle miles traveled and reduce emissions from the transportation sector.

Markey’s legislation is touted by several Democratic colleagues. Co-sponsors include Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois, Dianne Feinstein of California, Alex Padilla of California, Jeffrey Merkley of Oregon and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). House sponsors include Reps. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, Grace Napolitano of California, Bill Foster of Illinois and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

“When we look at building back better and addressing climate change, our nation’s highways present us with an incredible opportunity,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the Environment and Public Works Committee chairman. He also is sponsoring the bill with Markey. “We need to establish bold goals for reducing transportation emissions and to deliver safe, reliable, zero-emission travel choices for the public. Our bill would set the bar for states to encourage them to reduce vehicle emissions while improving health and reducing congestion in the process.”

Separately, Markey introduced the Connecting America’s Active Transportation System Act. The bill would approve $500 million annually for grants to local, regional, and state agencies to assist with pedestrian and biking infrastructure. The bill’s aim is to promote mobility sans cars.

A shift from driving to walking or bicycling could potentially reduce pollution, as well as traffic congestion, the measure’s sponsors argued.

“Pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities are on the rise, and expanding active transportation networks will help address the national safety crisis on our streets. At the same time, significant federal investment in active transportation will help address the climate crisis by reducing driving emissions, as well as ensure that all individuals, no matter their age or ability, can reach their destinations through affordable and healthy travel options,” Markey noted Feb. 25.

“Alaska’s transportation systems are in need of expansion, and building and connecting pedestrian and trail networks [are] an important part of bringing our infrastructure into the 21st century,” added Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska). “This legislation will provide opportunities to compete for significant funding to complete and further expand trails.”

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