Cantwell Announces Overwhelming Bipartisan Passage of Landmark Transportation Infrastructure Legislation through Committee
WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which sets national transportation policy, announced that her bipartisan Surface Transportation Investment Act was approved by an overwhelming bipartisan majority of the committee.
“The main focus of today's markup is the Surface Transportation Investment Act of 2021, and Senator Wicker and I introduced this legislation last week,” Cantwell said. “It makes a big down payment, $78 billion, on rebuilding and revamping our nation's critical transportation infrastructure, a key to our economic future and creating more jobs.”
The landmark legislation provides historic investments in key infrastructure and safety priorities over the next five years including:
- Mega-Projects – The bill authorizes $10 billion to help fund large, complex surface transportation projects. This program could help fund projects like the I-5 Columbia River Bridge Replacement and the US-2 Westbound Trestle.
- Culverts– The bill includes a new program authorizing $4 billion over five years to conduct culvert improvements and replacements which could benefit Washington salmon populations by restoring habitat and access to traditional spawning grounds.
- Railroad Crossings – The bill authorizes $2.5 billion for railroad crossing separation projects, as proposed by Senator Cantwell’s Grade Crossing Elimination Act, to help ease congestion at blocked railroad crossings. In 2017, the Washington State Department of Transportation found that the state’s 50 highest-priority grade crossings were occupied by a train for an average of two hours each day.
- Freight Investment – The bill increases freight funding, including the U.S. Department of Transportation’s INFRA grant program, to more than double the amount provided under the prior authorization included in the FAST Act of 2015, and expands eligibility for multimodal freight projects. Projects in the National Multimodal Freight Network, such as the ports of Seattle, Tacoma, and Everett, will better compete because the bill raises the multimodal cap.
- Multimodal Investment – The bill for the first time authorizes $7.5 billion for the RAISE discretionary grant program, which funds transit, rail, highway, and multimodal projects. The RAISE grant program is a high-demand program that is over-subscribed, and this funding is double what has historically been provided for it to help meet that demand.
- Intercity Passenger Rail Expansion – This bill authorizes $25 billion for Amtrak and intercity passenger rail, which could help support Washington state’s efforts to expand the Amtrak Cascades route. This is the largest bipartisan investment in passenger rail in history.
- DuPont Derailment: The bill will help address key concerns identified by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) after the Amtrak Cascades DuPont derailment, including ensuring rigorous passenger rail crewmember training through intensive audits and updates to safety regulations, requiring passenger railroads to submit safety plans for review 60 days prior to the operation of a new route, and requiring a holistic review of Amtrak’s safety culture.
- Supporting Vision Zero Plans: The bill creates a new grant program to support Vision Zero safety plans in Seattle and Spokane County, and provides funding for other cities in Washington to develop vision zero safety plans.
- Funding for HazMat First Responders: The bill increases funding for emergency response and training programs to better prepare communities for the risks posed by trains carrying crude oil and other hazardous materials.
In April, The White House released a state-by-state Infrastructure Report Card, in which Washington state earned a “C” grade. The report also states that Washington currently has 416 bridges and over 5,469 miles of highway in poor condition.
A transcript of Senator Cantwell’s opening remarks from today’s hearing is available HERE.
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