Cantwell Introduces Bipartisan Transportation Infrastructure and Safety Bill
WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Ranking Member Roger Wicker (R-MS) introduced the Surface Transportation Investment Act which authorizes $78 billion over five years to address key infrastructure and safety priorities, broken down as follows: $36 billion for rail, $27.8 billion for multimodal grant programs, and $13 billion for safety programs.
“With the economy rebounding, it’s imperative that our long delayed transportation needs are addressed,” Senator Cantwell said. “Whether it’s moving people safely, delivering freight on time, or addressing environmental needs, this legislation is a down payment to thrive and compete in the innovation economy.”
The Surface Transportation Investment Act will provide much-needed resources, which will support key Washington state infrastructure and safety priorities:
- 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), including ensuring rigorous passenger rail crewmember training through intensive audits and updates to safety regulations, requiring crewmember review of safety plans prior to passenger train departure, 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. The Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation is scheduled to hold an executive session to consider the Surface Transportation Investment Act on Wednesday, June 16, 2021, with the goal of advancing the bill to the full Senate for consideration alongside other transportation bills to invest in highways and transit.
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