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June 8, 2020 5:15 PM, EDT

Senate EPW Leaders Say Infrastructure Part of Solution During Turbulent Times

Delaware Sen. Tom Carper"I’m convinced that every member of this committee understands that it is our duty as public servants to serve all of our constituents, even the ones who haven’t voted for us and maybe never will,” says Delaware Sen. Tom Carper. (Al Drago/Bloomberg News)

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The events that followed George Floyd’s killing, several of which were violent, exposed various predicaments in society. Concerns pertaining to law enforcement, health care, race and ethnicity, and myriad social structures are front and center.

To aggravate matters, protesters took to the streets as millions of individuals are out of work during a pandemic.

A purposeful response to the crises could be infrastructure policy proposals designed to assist state agencies, insisted Delaware Sen. Tom Carper, the top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, on June 4.

Eugene Mulero

Mulero

The senator proposed investing in projects for roads, bridges, and tunnels that would lead to employment opportunities and possibly promote equality.

“I don’t believe it’s hyperbole to say that the soul of our nation is being tested as it hasn’t been in a long time,” Carper said. “I’m convinced that every member of this committee understands that it is our duty as public servants to serve all of our constituents, even the ones who haven’t voted for us and maybe never will.”

He continued, “Right now, that means listening to those among us who have oftentimes gone unheard, to try and put ourselves in their shoes and to not only acknowledge the pain that many people of color are experiencing in this country and the racism that they face, but to do something about it.”

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), the panel’s chairman, also is promoting investments in infrastructure while insisting the moment arrived for individuals to listen to each other and heal together. “Anyone who watched the video of the murder of George Floyd has to be horrified and heartbroken,” Barrasso said.

Despite their committee’s approval last year of a five-year highway infrastructure bill, the legislation has not reached the Senate floor. House transportation leaders intend to consider their version next week.

Policymakers have a hard road ahead. Neither the House nor the Senate has considered a sustainable source of funding for surface transportation coffers. And, the current highway law expires in the fall. Inaction on a reauthorization would necessitate a short-term extension of the law.

“This would be a mistake,” Barrasso said. “Our committee has repeatedly heard expert testimony that month-to-month extensions make it harder for states and communities to plan. In the past, funding uncertainties from such short-term extensions have led to project delays, cancellations, and higher costs. These delays would hurt our economic recovery.”

The Week Ahead

June 9, noon: The House Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee hosts a hearing titled, “Pollution and Pandemics: COVID-19’s Disproportionate Impact on Environmental Justice Communities.”

June 9, 1 p.m.: The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee reviews freight concerns during a hearing with stakeholders. Witnesses include Randy Guillot, chairman of American Trucking Associations. Watch here 

June 10, 10 a.m.: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is scheduled to appear before the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee.

The Freight Corridor

Then there’s jobs, jobs, jobs.

Buzz

A five-year highway policy reauthorization measure House Democrats unveiled last week would delay a new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration hours-of-service rule for commercial drivers until the completion of a comprehensive review of its waivers, exemptions and related guidelines. According to the panel’s summary of the provision: “[It] requires FMCSA to conduct a comprehensive review of the impacts of current hours-of- service rules, including exemptions, and prohibits expansions of on-duty time for commercial truck drivers proposed by the agency from taking effect until 60 days after the submission of the results of the review to Congress. The [transportation] secretary must document existing exemptions from hours-of-service rules and conduct a safety analysis and a driver impact analysis as part of the comprehensive review.”

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The Last Word

Our economic comeback is just beginning. But even in these early days of our careful reopening, the American people are already trouncing expert predictions and starting to come back strong.

Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on June 5.

Mitch McConnell

We publish weekly when Congress is in session. E-mail emulero@ttnews.com with tips. Follow us @eugenemulero and @transporttopics.

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