- - Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Last fall, Congress passed the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) that made record investments to address, upgrade, and expand our nation’s core infrastructure.

It provided more than $300 billion for our federal highways, $40 billion for bridge construction and repairs, more than $17 billion for ports and waterways infrastructure, nearly $3 billion for primary airports, and so much more.

As these funds are distributed and new programs are set up to address our transportation needs, implementation must be done in accordance with the law.

That’s why, as the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, oversight of exactly how the IIJA is carried out will continue to be a major priority.

For example, the law codified the One Federal Decision policy for highway and bridge projects, which sets a two-year goal for finishing environmental reviews for major projects. It requires agencies to coordinate on a predictable, joint schedule, providing states and localities the regulatory certainty they need to move projects forward.

That certainty and improved efficiency for transportation projects only comes if the Department of Transportation puts these sections of the law into practice. Critical project delivery sections, including One Federal Decision, however, have still not been prioritized for implementation, almost a year after being signed into law.

Republicans and Democrats came together to craft the legislation in a specific way that would best benefit all communities. These project streamlining provisions are part of what made the bill bipartisan, and part of what got it across the finish line.

We also provided states with maximum flexibility by preserving the traditional formula distribution of funds so states can address their own unique transportation needs. The agencies responsible for implementation now have an opportunity to see these commitments through, or stand in the way.

At the EPW Committee, which was responsible for writing the foundation of the IIJA, we will continue to push for transparency and accountability as funding is distributed, guidance documents are released, and project applications are submitted.

Ensuring this historic investment in our nation’s infrastructure is properly deployed is crucial, but it’s also a reminder that we have an opportunity to build on this momentum and continue delivering tangible results for every American.

For one, the Senate recently passed our version of the bipartisan Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which authorizes key projects across the country and boosts the import and export of goods, including crops, through expansions and upgrades of inland waterways and ports.

We’re working with our counterparts in the House to agree and move forward on a final version of WRDA, and send it to the president’s desk.

Our aviation sector is also important to our future economic security, as well as the daily lives of many Americans. Jobs in this field, whether in maintenance or recruiting and developing new pilots, are needed. In my home state of West Virginia, successful pilot and aviation training programs through Fairmont State, Marshall University, and Shepherd University are preparing the next generation to meet this challenge.

Congress has an opportunity, potentially through a major FAA reauthorization bill, to find ways to support and invest in proven programs like these that will shore up the aerospace industry workface of tomorrow, and with it, a key part of our economy.

The issues facing us don’t just apply to one group or one category of similar communities. Our transportation needs are felt in both rural and urban areas, on the coasts, and in the middle of the country.

Fortunately, we have a solid, bipartisan starting point.

I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues to maximize the investments we made, recognize and support effective programs, and develop new ideas to make positive impacts on families, workers, and employers every single day.

• Senator Shelley Moore Capito, West Virginia Republican, is the Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and also serves on the Appropriations, Commerce, and Rules Committees. She is the first female senator from the Mountain State.

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