December 9, 2019 3:15 PM, EST

By Washington Standards, Infrastructure Had a Moment in 2019

President Donald TrumpTrump's impeachment inquiry didn't completely detract from infrastructure policy in 2019. The Senate introduced a five-year highway authorization measure, and the House held several hearings on autonomous technology. (NBC News via YouTube)

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It would be unfair to suggest infrastructure policy legislation was nonexistent in Congress this year. Despite the attention-grabbing impeachment inquiry, the Environment and Public Works Committee in the U.S. Senate managed to advance a five-year highway reauthorization measure this summer that included climate-centric provisions. It was a modest step forward for policymakers, even though a long-term funding fix for highway programs was left unresolved.

The House, to its credit, put on several hearings to evaluate autonomous technology and safety programs within every mode of transportation. Lawmakers’ conclusions may find their way into the update to the 2015 FAST Act highway law. The FAST Act expires next fall, and polls continue to show the public supports policies that would reduce chronic congestion along highways. Jim Tymon with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials reminded policymakers Dec. 5 that infrastructure investment ranks high for Democrats and Republicans.

Eugene Mulero


“A crucial step we can take to harness this momentum is to complete the FAST Act reauthorization before October 2020 without relying on any short-term extensions,” Tymon told a transportation panel. “To do this, the situation demands bold action to invest in our transportation infrastructure at the appropriate level to guarantee the success of our nation’s future. This action has the clear support of the American public, and it is time for the president and Congress to make it happen.”

It’s safe to say the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump has been the year’s dominant. A legislative agenda in Congress that included infrastructure funding policy didn’t reach the level of intrigue as the House investigations into the president’s handling of foreign policy.

The year began full of hope. Trump and congressional leaders had expressed interest in collaborating on a comprehensive infrastructure package. They appeared ready to compromise on legislation that would modernize freight and commuter systems. While oversight hearings were being held in the House, negotiations on a grand piece of legislation were taking place.

By the spring, Trump and top Democrats had begun to publicly discuss the terms for such a package. And in May, those negotiations collapsed. Partisan politics got in the way.

The inquiry is likely to conclude by the end of the year, raising the potential for several more weeks of impeachment drama in the Senate to kick off 2020.

The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)

Dec. 10, at 10 a.m.: The House Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Subcommittee hosts a hearing on emergency disaster relief. Several officials have touted a new disaster mitigation program included in last year’s Disaster Recovery Reform Act. The Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities is designed to incentivize innovative infrastructure projects with the potential of increasing resilience prior to a major disaster. Recent hurricanes that destroyed freight and commuter corridors in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands prompted congressional discussions about resilient infrastructure policy.

Dec. 11, at 10 a.m.: The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee hosts a hearing on the Boeing 737 MAX.

Dec, 11, 10 a.m.: The Senate Commerce Committee considers the 5G Spectrum Act. The panel also examines the nomination of Thomas Chapman to become a member of the National Transportation Safety Board. 

Mood Swings 

A vote to impeach the president by Christmas has closed the door on arriving at an infrastructure policy measure this year. Better luck next year.


In Case You Missed It 

 Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao is scheduled to headline CES 2020, Yahoo reports.

Who’s New 

NTSB logo

The qualifications of Thomas Chapman, a nominee for a seat to the National Transportation Safety Board, will be reviewed Dec. 11 by the Senate Commerce Committee.

Chapman is minority counsel to the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Aviation and Space, according to background archived on the White House’s website.

His expertise includes involvement in the reauthorizing efforts for the Federal Aviation Administration, the Transportation Security Administration and NTSB. His career includes stints at US Airways, and Southwest Airlines.


A long-term fiscal 2020 appropriations deal is likely to be unveiled prior to a Dec. 20 government funding deadline, sources tell Transport Topics.

Favorite Video 

Mayor Pete showcases his crowd-work skills.

Favorite Tweet 

The First Amendment at work.

The Last Word

I don’t speak for Republicans or Democrats broadly but I do have conversations, bipartisan conversations, on a regular basis.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Dec. 8.

Rep. Mark Meadows

Thanks for reading Capitol Agenda. We publish weekly when Congress is in session. E-mail with tips. Follow us @eugenemulero and @transporttopics.

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