Transportation and the infrastructure necessary to keep it up impacts our everyday lives. If any one of our nation’s transportation infrastructure network breaks down, Americans immediately feel the impact - especially residents of New Jersey’s 8th Congressional District. That is why I have worked so hard to provide our States and cities with the federal funds they need to maintain current infrastructure networks, expand current infrastructure, and build new projects to meet the needs of growing cities and expanding economies.
A National Infrastructure Initiative
There is an urgent need to repair and modernize our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. As a member of the House of Representatives’ Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I have long worked to ensure that communities in New Jersey and around the country have the resources they need to fix their transportation networks, and upgrade critical energy and water infrastructure. In fact, as a member of the conference committee to negotiate the Fix America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015, I worked to provide New Jersey with over $5 billion for federal-aid highway funding and over $3 billion for transit program funding.
I am encouraged that the Trump Administration shares my urgency, but I disagree with their approach to addressing it. The President’s infrastructure initiative, which was advertised as a $1.5 trillion Federal investment, actually only provides $200 billion over ten years. That is not nearly enough to tackle the nation’s infrastructure projects backlog.
In the 115th Congress, I have supported legislation to provide hundreds of billions of dollars in infrastructure investments for States and cities (H.R. 1164), legislation to empower ports across the country to keep the air in their community clean and mitigate community impacts of continuous truck traffic (H.R. 4147), and a resolution calling for a bold jobs and infrastructure package that benefits all Americans (H.Con.Res. 63). Federal infrastructure funding does not have to be a partisan fight and I look forward to working with my colleagues on a bill that does not short change our communities in need.
Freight and Moving Goods
New Jersey’s economy depends largely on our ability to effectively and efficiently move goods. More than 269,000, or approximately 1 in 8, jobs in the state are directly affected by the goods movement industry, which includes the shipping of everything from food and clothing to cars and industrial supplies. More efficient goods movement enhances our ability to move on the roads, decreases harmful environmental effects, and minimizes damage to our infrastructure.
The Department of Transportation estimates that freight tons transported are expected to double by 2035, and this increase will lead to increased congestion on our nation’s already overburdened highways, railways, airports, and ports.
The FAST Act included an average $1.2 billion per year for a new National Highway Freight Program and established a discretionary competitive grant program of $4.5 billion over five years to provide financial assistance to nationally and regionally significant highway, rail, port, and intermodal freight and highway projects. As New Jersey’s freight capabilities continue to expand with projects like the deepening of the Port of New York and New Jersey and the raising of the Bayonne Bridge, I will continue to advocate for dedicated funding streams to assist large multimodal freight projects.
The aviation industry is a crucial sector of the United States economy. Commercial aviation is responsible for roughly five percent of our gross domestic product and contributes roughly eleven million American jobs to our economy.
The 8th District of New Jersey is home to part of Newark Liberty International Airport, the nation’s oldest airfield and home to the nation’s first commercial airline terminal. The airport employs 20,000 people and contributes around $22.9 billion in economic activity to the New Jersey - New York region.
It is important that the concerns of pilots, airport employees, and passengers are addressed in aviation legislation. As Congress considers the reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration in the 115th Congress, I will work with my colleagues on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to ensure that the concerns of the people of New Jersey are heard.
The Gateway Project
The Gateway Project is an absolute priority for me, for our District, for our State, and for the nation. The century-old infrastructure that connects New Jersey to New York is crumbling due to its age and to the residual damage caused by Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Repairing and upgrading this infrastructure, which includes the Hudson River tunnels and the Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River, is absolutely vital for our economy. The tunnels carry 200,000 passengers crossing between Newark and Manhattan each day - this is economic activity which the nation cannot afford to lose.
That is why I have long advocated for Federal financial assistance for the Gateway Project, and have continuously expressed my disbelief every time the Trump Administration has walked these Federal commitments back. The Administration’s outrages are too numerous to list in one letter, but they include a wholesale unjustified rejection of an agreed-to financing plan between our State and the government, and an admission that President Trump himself sees the Project as an excess.
I do not accept the logic that Federal financial assistance for the Gateway Project is an excess - especially when New Jersey, New York, and the Port Authority have worked so hard to identify ways to pay for half of the $30 billion Project. In fact, I relayed these concerns directly to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao at a recent hearing of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. The Gateway Project is too important to be the subject of political gamesmanship, and I will keep working to bring this assistance home for the thousands of people who depend on this crucial transportation infrastructure.
More on Transportation
Over the past two weeks in Washington, I participated in a subcommittee hearing and committee markup session for several important pieces of legislation, spoke with airline pilots about the aviation industry, reflected on the importance of Veterans Day, and attended the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Bayonne Fire Department’s new firehouse.
(Washington, D.C.)- Today, Congressman Sires supported multiple bills brought before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, including a bill that would provide $7 billion for Amtrak over the next four years, including $1.88 billion to improve Amtrak routes that run through New Jersey in the Northeast Corridor.
(Washington, D.C.)- U.S. Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker (both D-NJ) and Congressmen Albio Sires (NJ-08) and Donald Payne, Jr. (NJ-10) today announced a $14,800,000 Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to improve and expand facilities at Port Newark, create hundreds of jobs and enhance economic opportunities throughout the region.
(Washington, D.C.)- Today, Congressman Sires voted for H.R. 5021, the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2014, which passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 367-55. The legislation would extend surface transportation programs authorized under current law through May 31, 2015, and would infuse $10.9 billion into the Highway Trust Fund.
ATLANTA – Like other cities, Atlanta is seeing an explosive interest in biking.
The city will soon launch its first bike share program. In April, the first of four bike-themed street festivals this year is expected to draw tens of thousands to the historic West End. Mayor Kasim Reed aims to double the number of bicycle-to-work commuters by 2016. And the state Department of Transportation recently got in on the act, adding protected bicycle lanes along Ponce de Leon Avenue.
Thank you for reading this edition of my Washington Review. This week I reflected upon the President’s State of the Union address, introduced two new pieces of legislation in the House of Representatives, and worked with my colleagues in the House Committee on Foreign Affairs to mark up a bill to bring to the floor for a vote.