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January 24, 2022 2:15 PM, EST

White House Infrastructure Czar Touts Bridge Program

Capitol Agenda by Eugene Mulero

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The White House’s point man for the implementation of a $1 trillion infrastructure law on Jan. 18 said billions of dollars in funding to rehabilitate bridges and other deficient infrastructure is a generational opportunity for the country.

Mitch Landrieu, the infrastructure implementation coordinator, pointed to the economic opportunities associated with the “massive $27 billion allocation to states to fix over 15,000 bridges — the largest bridge program in American history.”

“Bridges connect us. They connect people, the movement of goods. They connect communities. They connect the country. With this investment, President [Joe] Biden is creating a bridge to the future, a pathway to win — a pathway for all of us to win,” Landrieu said, speaking before the White House press corps.

Mitch Landrieu

“We have asked states to appoint infrastructure coordinators, which we think will help foster cross-agency collaboration," Mitch Landrieu says. (Michael Reynolds/Bloomberg News)

The infrastructure czar also emphasized the coordination between his team and state transportation agencies to connect stakeholders with the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s resources.

“We have asked states to appoint infrastructure coordinators,” Landrieu said, “which we think will help foster cross-agency collaboration and make it easier for them to get problems solved very quickly.”

Last week, the president announced $27 billion for a multiyear program to fix and upgrade bridges.

Biden Administration Proceeds With Bridge Funds

WASHINGTON — Nearly two months after enacting a $1 trillion infrastructure package, President Joe Biden addressed the country to say there is more money available to kick off a multiyear process for fixing bridges.

The $27 billion in funding would target infrastructure deemed deficient in order to improve transportation connectivity.

“I ran for president to unite the country. This bipartisan infrastructure law I signed two months ago unites us around things we all depend on,” said Biden. “When we invest in infrastructure, we’re really investing in opportunity. These are investments that will build a better America. It sounds like hyperbole, but it’s real.”

Pete Buttigieg

Buttigieg

Biden’s sentiment was echoed that same day by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg during a stop in Philadelphia. Buttigieg affirmed the funding is meant to rehabilitate the country’s bridges and alleviate supply chain bottlenecks.

“We know that when the bridges are in good shape, they help people to get to where they need to be more safely, more efficiently, more affordably, and I would note that strengthens our supply chains, gets groceries to where they need to be and keeps prices lower,” the secretary said.

Buttigieg’s deputy, Polly Trottenberg, emphasized the funding availability will help make 2022 one of the most exciting years in transportation policy. Billions of dollars, she noted, would target freight connectivity efforts linked to the supply chain, trucking workforce initiatives and grants for the overall mobility system.

“I think we’re really going to be able to … strengthen and make more resilient and more sustainable ... all the elements of our supply chain,” Trottenberg said during an interview with Transport Topics this month.

Polly Trottenberg

Deputy Secretary of Transportation Polly Trottenberg says  billions of dollars would target freight connectivity efforts linked to the supply chain, trucking workforce initiatives and grants for the overall mobility system. (Brookings Institution via YouTube)

She said she has heard positive feedback from parts of the agency and via sessions with industry stakeholders including airport and port officials, FedEx Corp. and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“I think there’s a lot of enthusiasm for the focus that the administration is putting on supply chain,” Trottenberg said.

Specifically, the U.S. Department of Transportation is standing different programs and making sure USDOT officials are well-organized as they proceed with the infrastructure law’s implementation, she explained.

“We’re working with our stakeholders so that when we send out our notices of funding opportunity, or our guidances, you know, that we’ve heard from all the people,” Trottenberg said. “And that’s a lot of upfront work.

“So we know we’ve got to hit the ground running. We’ve got to go the distance. I guess you’d describe it [as] both a sprint and a marathon.”

Freight stakeholders, while touting the federal funding availability, continue to raise concerns over the supply chain. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, for instance, called on U.S. senators to endorse the National Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Supply Chain Database Act.

Chamber of Commerce Letter to Senators by Transport Topics on Scribd

In a letter to senators Jan. 13, the chamber noted: “We commend Sens. [Bob] Menendez and [Marsha] Blackburn for crafting bipartisan legislation that should encourage businesses to share information with a network of supply chain data, bolster manufacturer resiliency and mitigate supply chain disruptions in the face of future crises.”

The Week Ahead

Jan. 18, 1 p.m.: The Bipartisan Policy Center hosts a discussion titled, “Getting Serious About Housing Supply: Addressing Restrictive Land Use and Zoning Policies.”

Jan. 19-21: The U.S. Conference of Mayors gathers for its 90th winter meeting.

Jan. 19, 10 a.m.: The House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee meets for a hearing titled, “Ensuring Equitable Delivery of Disaster Benefits to Vulnerable Communities and Peoples: An Examination of GAO’s Findings of the CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) Program.”

U.S. Chamber of Commerce logo

Jan. 19, 10 a.m.: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce hosts a virtual forum titled, “EnergyInnovates: Grid Resilience.”

Jan. 19, 10 a.m.: The Bipartisan Policy Center hosts a discussion titled, “American Supply Chains: Solving the Next Set of Challenges.”

Jan. 19, 2 p.m.: The House Border Security, Facilitation and Operations Subcommittee meets for a hearing titled, “Assessing the State of America’s Seaports.”

Freight Corridor

West Coast infrastructure.

Legislative Docket

Congressional transportation policymakers plan to proceed with an update to the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). The legislation likely would approve billions of dollars for flood protection, port dredging and environmental protection, among other programs.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure panel, recently outlined merits for the upcoming legislation.

“The [U.S. Army Corps of Engineers] has been laughably underfunded for decades, leading to a $100 billion backlog of projects that would provide enumerable benefits in flood risk reduction, ecosystem restoration, water supply and navigation,” he said.

“For too long, we have allowed our infrastructure to age and degrade, and have failed to modernize our systems to address current water resources challenges,” DeFazio added. “If we have any hope of getting our water infrastructure above the current ‘C-’ average grade provided by the American Society of Civil Engineers, we need to accurately value the essential work of the Corps to our economy, to our way of life and to our environment.”

Buzz

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Jan. 16, shared an update on the status of the House-passed Build Back Better Act.

Kaine

Kaine

“The most recent version of it is not going to happen, but if you look at the core of the bill, I think the core is education and workforce and things like reduced child care and education expenses, workforce training and then support for the workforce in areas like health care," he said. "There are other pieces of the bill that are more controversial. I still believe we’re going to find a core of this bill, whatever we call it, we’re going to find the core of the bill and pass it, and it will deal directly with some of these inflation concerns.”

Favorite Video

Florida. Florida. Florida.

Favorite Tweet

POTUS on the mic.

The Last Word

To keep our economy moving, we must ensure that truckers who work hard don’t face financial ruin.

Rohit Chopra, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, on Jan. 13

Rohit Chopra

We publish Mondays when Congress is in session and add updates throughout the week. See previous installments of Capitol Agenda here. Email emulero@ttnews.com with tips. Follow us @eugenemulero and @transporttopics.

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