WRDA, Biden Administration Oversight Priorities for T&I

Chairman Sam Graves Outlines 2024 Agenda
Capitol Agenda Eugene Mulero

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A policy update to the nation’s network of waterways and consistent oversight of Biden administration climate policies are on the upcoming schedule for the transportation panel in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.) said reauthorizing the Water Resources Development Act is among the near-term priorities for the committee.

The chairman emphasized the committee has been crafting the comprehensive bill for several months in order to finalize a version prior to a fall deadline.

“We are coming up on WRDA. We have a deadline of Sept. 30 of this year. We’ve started that process. We should have a good bipartisan bill that comes out of the House,” Graves said in an address to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials on Feb. 6. The group met near Capitol Hill last week for its federal policy conference.

David Rouzer


The panel’s leadership intends to formally consider the Water Resources Development Act of 2024 (WRDA) this spring. The bill’s committee markup will be led by sponsor Rep. David Rouzer (R-N.C.), water policy subcommittee chairman.

WRDA, enacted biennially since 2014, facilitates funding for projects associated with ports, dams, waterways, canals and locks. Major projects under the jurisdiction of the Army Corps of Engineers are relevant in congressional districts.

According to background information the committee unveiled, “WRDA projects typically require two separate types of authorization: the authority to study the feasibility of a project, followed by the authority to construct, operate and/or maintain the project. Completed feasibility studies are submitted to Congress in the form of a chief’s report from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Chief of Engineers.”

At the AASHTO event, the T&I chairman also pointed to another priority for the panel. Atop his agenda is undoing a Federal Highway Administration recent rule on emissions metrics.

“When it comes to setting benchmarks for the states,” Graves explained that House leaders are expressing concern and are “again working with our Senate colleagues to push back.”

Rep. Rick Crawford


Most congressional Republicans are seeking to undo emissions targets the FHWA is requiring of state-based transportation agencies. Graves and Co. are using a procedural resolution to nullify FHWA’s move. A vote on the resolution has not been scheduled. This procedural approach, led by Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), aligns with the caucus’ opposition to the administration’s climate change and economic agenda, which is what the White House refers to as “Bidenomics.”

“This one-size-fits-all regulation puts states with more small towns and rural communities that are not able to cut emissions by building a metro system, buying electric buses or building miles of bike lanes between communities at a significant disadvantage,” Crawford, chairman of the Highways and Transit Subcommittee, said Feb. 7. More than five dozen Republican colleagues have co-sponsored the resolution.

Crawford continued: “What’s most galling is that this administration has implemented this rule despite having no statutory authority to do so. This is the heavy hand of the federal government run amok.”

Sen. Kevin Cramer


FHWA’s rule requires state departments of transportation and metropolitan planning organizations to establish declining carbon dioxide targets. State DOTs and MPOs also are required to issue reports about their progress toward achieving those targets.

On the other side of the Capitol, senior senators have voiced their support. Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) is a lead sponsor. He is the ranking member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee. “The absence of a prohibition is not a license, and yet the Biden administration pushed this illegal and infeasible regulation anyway,” the senator said. “New York and North Dakota have very different transportation systems, needs and capabilities, but under this one-size-fits-all mandate, they’re effectively treated the same.”

The Week Ahead (all times Eastern)

Deanne Criswell


Feb. 14, 10 a.m.: The House Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management Subcommittee meets for a hearing titled, “Disaster Readiness: Examining the Propriety of the Expanded Use of FEMA Resources.” Witnesses include Deanne Criswell, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Feb. 14, 10:15 a.m.: The House Workforce Protections Subcommittee meets for a hearing titled, “Examining the Policies and Priorities of the Wage and Hour Division.” Watch the hearing here.

Feb. 15, 10 a.m.: The House Highways and Transit Subcommittee meets for a hearing titled, “Implementation of Buy America Provisions: Stakeholder Perspectives.” Witnesses include Carlos Braceras, executive director of the Utah Department of Transportation. He will be representing the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

Freight Corridor

Fans of Super Bowl champs Kansas City Chiefs might have exclaimed, “Viva Las Vegas” while partying on the Strip. The football faithful probably noticed the city is pursuing upgrades to infrastructure projects designed to improve commuters’ connectivity corridors.

Legislative Docket

A bill meant to expedite the permitting process for infrastructure projects is on the House of Representatives’ schedule for this month. House Republican leaders indicated that as early as the week of Feb. 12, the GOP-led Creating Confidence in Clean Water Permitting Act would reach the floor of the chamber.

Sponsored by senior Republicans on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the bill seeks to update and improve permitting processes included in the Clean Water Act. Specifically, the lawmakers argued the measure would codify existing rules and practices. The committee on Jan. 31 approved the bill by a party-line vote.

According to an explanatory report prepared by the committee, the legislation “strives to once again find balance within the regulatory and permitting process originally envisioned by the [Clean Water Act] by providing a comprehensive package of common-sense reforms to permitting processes for energy producers, agriculture sector, builders and water utilities.”


The Federal Transit Administration last week announced its administrator, Nuria Fernandez, will retire from her post at the end of this month. A senior official will serve as FTA’s interim leader.

“Public service is an honor and a privilege, and I am eternally grateful to President [Joe] Biden and Secretary [Pete] Buttigieg for granting me the opportunity to guide the dedicated and professional public servants at FTA,” Fernandez said Feb. 7.

Our jobs are what we do, not who we are. 

Federal Transit Administrator Nuria Fernandez

FTA Administrator Nura Fernandez

“Public transportation has been a significant part of my professional life for more than three decades. I have had the distinction to have built a career serving in various roles in this industry and across this country," she added. "But, as I often say, our jobs are what we do, not who we are. As I leave what I do, I look forward to spending more time with my family and friends, who have truly created so much of who I am.”

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Rep. Celeste Maloy (R-Utah) on Feb. 8

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

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