Like most Americans, I recognize that infrastructure serves as a core purpose of the federal government. Recently, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao visited Omaha to talk with Nebraskans about how best to fix our transportation. We both understand that building and expanding our nation’s infrastructure represents an investment in our economy, public safety and national security. Broadband connects us to information we use on a daily basis. Airports keep families in touch and connect us to the world. Roads are more than lines on a map. They are a vision for the future.
Together, Secretary Chao and I met with Nebraskans to hear how we can make transportation and infrastructure plans work for our state. In Omaha, we spoke with representatives from the Nebraska Department of Transportation, leaders from the trucking, rail and aviation industries and the construction companies that will build our infrastructure. This meeting allowed us to participate in a good conversation about current and future infrastructure needs.
This past May, the president announced his intention to implement a national infrastructure plan, and Secretary Chao and I have been working together to enact long-term reforms on how infrastructure projects are regulated, funded, delivered and maintained. We need to follow through on the president’s leadership. This fall, when Congress goes back into session, we look forward to working together to make the president’s plan a reality.
The expansion of our transportation system offers a great opportunity for Congress and the White House to form a partnership that improves the lives of Americans. This partnership can focus on doing more than just building roads and fixing bridges, however, it can also create a vision for streamlining the process for building future projects. We must acknowledge that process matters as much as funding does when it comes to developing and constructing successful projects. Americans are ready to start building. It’s up to us in Congress and at the Department of Transportation to make sure they succeed.
In designing this plan, we must also acknowledge that rural and urban areas have different needs when it comes to transportation. The best way to effectively fill the demands of both areas is to empower those who will use transportation projects to be the ones who design and build them. We can do that by implementing an infrastructure funding package that utilizes current programs while giving states the flexibility to prioritize projects that they deem most important.
Innovation should also be at the forefront of any plan to fix and expand our infrastructure. Washington must consider new ideas and different approaches that will utilize technology. One of the best ways to do this is by expediting the permitting process. These ideas would stretch the taxpayer dollar further and deliver better results for the American people. It’s the best way to ensure that we are building projects that will last.
Congress should also encourage targeted, strategic and long-term investments that strengthen safety, facilitate commerce and enhance the reliability of our transportation system. The best way to do this is to use the FAST Act as a foundation for more expansion, and that’s what I will be pushing for in the Senate.
In 2015, Congress passed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation, or FAST Act. It was our first long-term highway bill in more than a decade and used creative thinking to help fund transportation without going into further debt. For example, the FAST Act included a new national strategic freight program that provides every state with annual, guaranteed funding. By dedicating funding for rural and urban freight corridors, the program enhances the flow of commercial traffic and increases safety on our nation’s roads.
Infrastructure represents the future of America. I look forward to working with Secretary Chao as we design and implement a national infrastructure bill that effectively builds projects that will last for generations.