White House, Congress Look to Infrastructure After COVID-19 Relief

Sen. Ed Markey
"Infrastructure week will no longer just be a punchline," says Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) (Scott Eisen/Bloomberg News)

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This week, the president likely will sign into law legislation that aims to help various economic and health care sectors bounce back from the pandemic.

The U.S. House of Representatives is poised to clear the nearly $2 trillion COVID-19 package as early as March 9, to then hand off the measure to President Joe Biden for his signature.

Shortly after that bill’s enactment into law, the White House and decision-makers on Capitol Hill plan to turn their attention to matters of infrastructure. Biden’s promise to “build back better,” when it comes to the country’s mobility grid, is expected to consist of climate change provisions, as well as updates to renewable energy policies.



In an attempt to preview his agenda, the president invited to the White House the House transportation committee’s chairman, ranking member, and top policymakers on matters of highway and transit policies. Joining the meeting was Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

According to the White House, on March 4 the transportation leaders “shared their commitment for ensuring new and existing infrastructure is modernized to withstand the impacts of climate change while creating jobs with the choice to join a union and leading the world in a clean energy revolution.”

After the meeting, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the panel’s chairman, announced that he intends to consider a highway policy bill this spring. Surface transportation policy is another pillar of this infrastructure agenda. “I made sure to point out to the president that I was wearing my Route 66 socks as reminder we are still living off the legacy of President [Dwight] Eisenhower to the detriment of our safety, our economy, our communities and our environment,” DeFazio said.

We all have the same goal of improving America’s transportation infrastructure.

Sam Graves (R-Mo.)


Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), ranking member on the committee, emphasized bipartisanship: “It will take a willingness to compromise and a good faith effort to consider Republican priorities. We all have the same goal of improving America’s transportation infrastructure, but we cannot overlook broad sections of the country in the process.”

All the talk about infrastructure policy and the potential for updating the country’s major highway law prompted Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) to cheer his colleagues on. Markey, who proposed bills aimed at boosting safety and multimodal access along corridors, noted the obvious. The term “infrastructure week,” which sort of became Beltway colloquial for a show of incapability, is reclaiming its luster. Markey quipped, “Infrastructure week will no longer just be a punchline.”

GREEN Streets Bill by Transport Topics on Scribd

“We need a transportation transformation in this country, and this is our opportunity to create millions of good-paying, union jobs while investing in green transit infrastructure,” the senator said.

Meanwhile, Secretary Buttigieg continues to remind stakeholders of the president’s pledge to re-envision the concept of freight and passenger corridors. Equity, accessibility, and sustainability are policy must-haves in whatever legislative vehicle Congress uses to push ahead with an infrastructure package, the secretary has noted.

“It’s not enough to make the vehicle more climate friendly. We also need to have alternatives to using the vehicle and that’s what biking, walking, and transit amounts to,” Buttigieg told the League of American Bicyclists. “We’re in a bit of a race to make sure there are more multimodal options that are not just environmentally beneficial but just make sense in terms of the way communities are laid out.”

Seems like the Biden era infrastructure week is fast approaching.

The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)

March 10, 10 a.m.: The U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee meets for a hearing titled, “Building Back Better: Addressing Climate Change in the Electricity Sector and Fostering Economic Growth.” Watch live here

March 10, 11 a.m.: The U.S. House Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee meets to review rail policy. Watch live here

Freight Corridor

Wait, you mean to tell me you got a C- on your report card?

Legislative Docket



Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) recently introduced legislation meant to enhance safety features to protect motorists from underride accidents that involve tractor-trailers and straight trucks. The Stop Underrides Act would require underride guards on the sides and front of new trucks.

Gillibrand said March 4: “This bill would finally enact critical, common-sense changes that would save lives on our roads. Requiring effective truck underride guards is one of the best and easiest solutions to prevent horrific underride accidents and protect passengers from being killed when a car collides with a tractor-trailer.”



U.S. congressional earmarks are back. Time to study the “bridge-to-nowhere” phenomenon.

Favorite Video

Readers are leaders. (What’s in the bill?)

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Where the sidewalk ends.

The Last Word

It’s so important for state and local transportation agencies to have some of that certainty, and knowing what the federal funding picture is going to look like for a number of years.

Polly Trottenberg, nominated to the deputy transportation secretary post, told senators March 3


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

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