A strong American infrastructure is vital for our country to be able to compete globally, foster local and regional economic development, and create jobs. Facilitating commerce, in part by providing for our national infrastructure, is one of the most important and fundamental roles of the federal government. The roads, bridges, waterways, and mass transit systems on which we rely every day not only serve to connect local communities—they also bring together resources that drive our economy and create jobs across the country. It is imperative that the United States works to build a 21st Century infrastructure that provides long-term solutions to our challenges and embraces American innovation.
Bridges and roads are deteriorating across the country—particularly in Illinois where, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers, more than 2,300 bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete and our roads rank as third-worst in the nation for travel delay, excess fuel consumed, and total congestion costs. Our economy depends on maintaining and improving our modes of infrastructure and continually implementing new and innovative ways to keep America moving.
MillIons of tons of commodities are shipped annually using Illinois’ many rivers, including sites along the Illinois River in Marseilles, Utica, and Morris. Improving our waterways will make it easier for farmers and manufacturers in Illinois to get their goods to consumers out of state and even around the world.
While serving my constituents in Congress, I have voted a number of times to reauthorize the Water Resources and Development Act (WRDA), which covers our nation’s waterways programs. WRDA improves the process for rehabilitating infrastructure along America’s waterways while eliminating red tape and bureaucratic delays that have bogged down the system for years.
Without question, our highway system is one of the most visible and utilized assets of our national infrastructure. Development and maintenance of our highway system is funded by the Highway Trust Fund which, unfortunately, is on a path to insolvency if Congress does not act to reform and improve it.
The latest highway bill enacted was the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. I was proud to vote in support of the FAST Act, which contained a number of my own bills and provisions to help Illinois workers, protect consumers, support small businesses, and improve vehicle safety.
On September 30, 2020, Congress reauthorized the FAST Act for one year as it continues to negotiate a long-term, transformational bill that significantly boosts investment in our surface transportation network. I remain committed to finding long-term solutions to save and strengthen our highway infrastructure so that it remains safe for our families while spurring economic growth and job creation in the 16th District of Illinois.
Our nation’s passenger and freight rail systems serve as a vital connection between industries and manufacturers located across the country. However, with continually changing consumer preferences, our rail system must be adaptable and an efficient use of taxpayer funds. The most recent railway-related authorization enacted was the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act (PRRIA), which reauthorized Amtrak with important reforms and improvements, incentivizes private investment, streamlines certain federal review processes to reduce red tape, and empowers states to have a bigger role in managing their routes.
As an aviator, I fully understand and appreciate the importance of travel by air. Even Wilbur and Orville Wright would have had difficulty imagining just how interconnected the world has become today, in large part due to air travel. The laws governing our airports, air travel routes, and airlines are administered by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and Congress must reauthorize the FAA every few years to ensure the agency is meeting its obligations. The most recent iteration of this legislation is the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, which contained one of my pro-consumer bills, the Seat Egress in Air Travel (SEAT) Act. The SEAT Act requires the FAA to establish minimum standards for the size of seats on commercial airplanes to ensure the health and safety of passengers.
As your representative, I will continue to support practical policies and reforms to ensure our nation’s infrastructure system is modernized so that it truly meets the needs of American consumers and businesses.