Infrastructure plan – now is the time, U.S. DOT secretary says

March 25, 2021

Mark Schremmer

|

While President Joe Biden’s multitrillion-dollar infrastructure plan will not be released until next week, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg provided some hints on what to expect.

Buttigieg testified at the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committing hearing “The Administration’s Priorities for Transportation Infrastructure” on Thursday, March 25. The new DOT secretary pointed to a lack of infrastructure investment in recent years and an opportunity to transform transportation in the United States.

“Across the country, we face a trillion-dollar backlog of needed repairs and improvements, with hundreds of billions of dollars in good projects already in the pipeline,” Buttigieg said. “We see other countries pulling ahead of us, with consequences for strategic and economic competition. By some measures, China spends more on infrastructure every year than the U.S. and Europe combined. The infrastructure status quo is a threat to our collective future. We face an imperative to create resilient infrastructure and confront inequities that have devastated communities.”

President Joe Biden is expected to announce his administration’s infrastructure plan on March 31 in Pittsburgh. According to reports, the “Build Back Better” program could cost as much as $4 trillion.

Buttigieg did not provide specific details about the plan but made clear that it will focus on creating jobs, repairing highways and bridges, recommitting to improving safety, addressing inequities in the transportation system, and tackling the climate crisis.

“Now is the time to clear the backlog and repair our highways, roads, bridges, maritime ports and airports, to enhance freight and passenger rail, and to provide accessible public transit and mobility options for all,” Buttigieg said. “Now is the time to redouble our commitment to transportation reliability and safety to ensure that families will no longer have to mourn tragic deaths that could have been prevented.”

Infrastructure report card

Land Line’s Tyson Fisher reported earlier this month that the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the nation a C-minus on its infrastructure report card. Most notable to truckers, the United States received a C on bridges and a D on roads.

The report said 42% of the more than 600,000 bridges are at least 50 years old and that more than 40% of the nation’s road system is in poor or mediocre condition.

Truck parking

A day after Atlanta Regional Commission Executive Director Douglas Hooker and Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., spoke out on the truck parking crisis during a Senate committee hearing, Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill., again brought attention to the issue.

Bost asked Buttigieg if he was familiar with the problem and how he thought it was best to address it.

The secretary said he would like to learn more about the issue.

“I certainly recognize the concern and hope to get more familiar with it in short order,” Buttigieg said. There are certainly tools that can be used, whether we’re talking about the efficiency of how trucks are routed or whether we’re talking about the use of right of way. I will do what I can to make sure I have a more informed response on it the next time we speak.”

Bost sponsored the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act in the previous congressional session and is expected to reintroduce the bill soon. The Act would authorize $755 million for truck parking over five years. LL

TBS
Mark Schremmer

Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.