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October 21, 2019 12:45 PM, EDT

US House Members Propose Reforms to Infrastructure Construction Process

Harley Rouda Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Calif.) by Sait Serkan Gurbuz/Associated Press

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Legislation that seeks to advance infrastructure projects through innovative and open competition among suppliers was recently introduced by a bipartisan group of policymakers in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Under the Sustainable Municipal Access to Resilient Technology (SMART) Infrastructure Act, reforms to the procurement process would be supported to ensure efficient and sensible rebuilding of projects aided by federal funding.

The legislation also would establish an interagency task force that would prepare a report about the procurement process as well as the open competition for construction materials. Currently, a number of municipalities adhere to myriad regulations pertaining to the types of materials they may use for infrastructure projects, the legislation’s sponsors explained.

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The bill is “capitalism at work — encouraging open competition and removing burdensome regulations while saving American taxpayers billions of dollars,” Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Calif.) said Oct. 16. He is a member of the influential Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “As the federal government continues to fund critical infrastructure projects and members on both sides of the aisle seek to increase that investment across the country, we should encourage modern, resilient solutions that use taxpayer dollars responsibly.”

Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas)

Babin

“This bill makes a simple, but critical, reform to our federally funded procurement and project-development process by returning authority and responsibility to the construction professionals who know best,” added Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas), also a sponsor and a member on the transportation panel alongside Rouda.

The legislation was referred to the committee of jurisdiction for consideration in the 116th Congress. It is unclear when the panel’s leadership will schedule a debate on the legislation. Other co-sponsors of the bill include Reps. Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), a member of the transportation panel, and Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), who sits on the Science, Space, and Technology Committee.

“Ensuring open and fair competition in the acquisition of materials for infrastructure projects is critically important,” Napolitano said, in a statement provided by Rouda’s office. “It increases jobs in our districts by allowing innovative businesses to compete fairly with traditional materials, and it lowers costs for taxpayers by creating additional supply in the bidding process. I am proud to join Reps. Rouda, Babin and Norman in supporting this bipartisan legislation for our communities.”

Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.)

Napolitano

“From the federal standpoint, two of the best things Congress can do to facilitate these much-needed improvements are to encourage competition and remove unnecessary regulations,” Norman added.

Several stakeholders have expressed support for the legislation, emphasizing an impetus to enhance freight and commuter connectivity at cities and municipalities.

The groups include the Associated Builders and Contractors, the Vinyl Institute, the Plastics Industry Association, the Leading Builders of America and the American Chemistry Council.

“This legislation will simply and wisely let project managers consider all technologies and select the best solution for the job instead of being forced to use pre-selected materials. It’s estimated that adopting the open and competitive bidding reforms in this legislation could save over $370 billion on water infrastructure projects alone,” stated Cal Dooley, American Chemistry Council’s president and CEO. “We urge Congress to support this bill that will help provide more freedom and more choices for communities when it comes to repairing the nation’s failing infrastructure.”

“Different materials perform better in certain jobs than others, and they can do so at lower cost to the American taxpayer. With this bill, [Reps.] Rouda and Babin are putting the decision-making power when it comes to federal infrastructure spending in the hands of the people who should have that power, and we applaud them for doing so,” added Tony Radoszewski, president and CEO of the Plastics Industry Association.

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