Guest column: Prioritizing Infrastructure
Infrastructure is a topic that has been getting a lot of attention in recent weeks and months, especially after President Joe Biden rolled out a proposal earlier this year and with ongoing negotiations for actual legislation in Congress. Certainly, all Americans can agree that maintaining, repairing and improving infrastructure benefits everyone. Unfortunately, Democrats and President Biden have become fixated on “human infrastructure,” insisting that many social programs should be included in any future infrastructure package.
Although I hope that Democrats will not ultimately go through with undercutting traditional infrastructure needs related to roads, bridges, waterways, rail and air, it is worth noting that lawmakers in Congress have already been steadily investing in traditional infrastructure programs year after year. This little-known-fact of Congress’ responsible track record is thanks to the work originating in the Appropriations Committees in both chambers.
As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I am proud that our panel and other committees have worked across the aisle and in coordination with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) led by multiple presidents to deliver on significant and increased annual funding for the nation’s most critical infrastructure needs. Indeed, lawmakers have worked together to increase funding for traditional infrastructure projects every year.
Since fiscal year 2016, investments in infrastructure and related safety enhancements for roads, bridges, airports, transit and ports have been increased dramatically. For example, annual funding for infrastructure projects through the Federal Highways Administration alone have increased by nearly $6 billion and at the Federal Transit Administration by more than $1.3 billion. Targeted grants for roads on tribal and other federally significant lands have also seen an increase of $100 million. In addition, entirely new programs to invest in our deep water ports and to repair bridges across the country have been created.
Investments such as these have certainly contributed to getting projects in communities across the country critical funding they need – without having to wait on a comprehensive infrastructure package to get to the president’s desk. In fact, Oklahoma’s Fourth Congressional District has been the direct beneficiary in recent weeks of broader investments in funding for DOT infrastructure grants led by the Appropriations Committees.
First, it was announced at the end of June that two large highway projects will receive $100 million in funding through DOT’s incredibly competitive Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant program. This funding will go toward the I-40 Douglas Interchange project and the I-35 Red River Bridge project to greatly improve and strengthen the ability to move both people and freight in vital commuter and trade corridors while increasing travel safety statewide. I was delighted to join Senator Jim Inhofe in personally advocating for bringing this essential funding to our state.
Second, DOT announced that the Ardmore area will benefit from $2.5 million in grant funding for two key air infrastructure projects. Specifically, the Ardmore Downtown Executive Airport will receive $1.725 million, which will be used to install a partial overlay of the taxiway and installation of LED lights on the taxiway, on the runway holding position guidance signs and on precision approach path indicators. In addition, the Ardmore Industrial Airpark will receive $700,000 to rehabilitate the surface of the long runway and upgrade the lighting on the taxiway at the Ardmore Airpark. Indeed, this funding will help increase safety and visibility improvements. By improving the infrastructure of these two key air transportation installations, we can hopefully attract more aircraft to the area to strengthen and grow the surrounding communities.
Just like the examples above, infrastructure is key to our nation’s success. We must ensure the safety of travel of people, freight and supplies nationwide to boost our economy and keep our country running efficiently. While I still hope Congress and the president can come to an agreement and provide solutions for real, traditional infrastructure needs, I am proud that legislators have already consistently increased funding and looked out for some of our nation’s pressing needs for infrastructure every year.