- - Tuesday, February 23, 2021

I am eager to get to work on infrastructure policy to further Oklahoma priorities and bring needed investment to the roads, bridges, and infrastructure that connect communities, support economic productivity, and create jobs across America. I am confident we can do this unless the left wing of the Democratic Party insists on their radical agenda being included. Infrastructure legislation has historically been an area where the two sides have come together with bipartisanship as a commitment. As we continue to rebuild and reconnect our communities from the past year, we must ensure any infrastructure focuses exclusively on just that: real, needed infrastructure.

We have proven time and again that infrastructure is something we can come together to do. We did it in 2012 with the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) and in 2015 with the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act.

We’ve made real change happen in the past. With strong bipartisan support in Congress, MAP-21 made real progress to accelerate construction by putting the power back where it should be—in the hands of the states. It gave states like Oklahoma much needed flexibility to use transportation money how they saw fit, cutting Washington bureaucrats out of the process. We must preserve and advance this progress in future bipartisan transportation reauthorization bills.

In 2015, then-Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and I led the charge in passing the much-needed Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act—the sixth reauthorization bill I have worked on and the first long-term federal investment in our nation’s transportation infrastructure since 2005. The FAST Act established a new freight program to expedite shipping in our growing economy. We must continue our efforts to reduce congestion and streamline the movement of agriculture freight and other goods through our nation’s integrated transportation network.

In 2019, I was proud to say the Senate’s bipartisan America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act of 2019 was reported from committee with many of my priorities included. It would have amended existing freight programs to allow my state of Oklahoma flexibility to modernize our waterways and increased opportunities for states to apply for federal grants focused on projects of regional significance. It would have created meaningful workforce development opportunities to train the next generation of engineers, technicians, and workers desperately needed to build, repair, and maintain our nation’s infrastructure. Unfortunately, it expired without further consideration last year, in large part because the House moved forward with a partisan transportation bill instead.

BUILD and INFRA grants empower states to complete major transportation infrastructure projects of national and regional significance, fostering economic growth, supporting accessibility, and providing critical safety advancements for communities across America. In Oklahoma, recent grants have supported a major bridge upgrade, cemented our inland ports as regional hubs for jobs and industry, and improved safety and connectivity in key corridors across major urban centers. We must continue to empower this kind of smart investment throughout America.

Infrastructure improvement is possible, and maybe even probable, with this new administration. My recent meeting at the White House is a good first step. But infrastructure has to be focused on real projects our economy needs—not a liberal wish list.

• U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, serves as ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He is also a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the Senate Small Business Committee. Sen. Inhofe is an avid pilot and committed supporter of infrastructure for the U.S. to drive the world’s economy.

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