Transportation & Infrastructure
In 2018, Congressman DeFazio was elected by his peers to serve as Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. A member of the Committee since 1987, DeFazio previously served as Chairman or Ranking Member of four of the six subcommittees: Aviation, Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, Highways and Transit, and Water Resources and Environment.
Over the years, DeFazio has established a reputation as a leader on transportation issues. He believes the United States must invest in a robust, multimodal transportation system if it is to remain in league with competitor nations around the world. Yet the U.S. is seriously lagging behind. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) reports that approximately one-third of America's roads are in "poor or mediocre condition," and nearly 150,000 bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. Across the country, trucks are rerouted due to weight restrictions on bridges, and Americans waste time and money on gasoline idling in traffic.
Our national investment in infrastructure is dwarfed by competitor nations. The Urban Land Institute reports that China currently spends 9 percent of its GDP on infrastructure including transportation; India spends 5% (and growing). Yet the United States spends only 0.93% of our GDP on like investments. Even countries making austerity cuts, like the U.K., have maintained investments in their transportation and infrastructure systems because they know these investments produce economic gains.
MAP-21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, Public Law 112-141)
In 2012, as the ranking member on the Highways Subcommittee, DeFazio helped negotiate a 27-month federal highway and transit spending bill called MAP-21. Under the bill, DeFazio secured $1.1 billion for Oregon's roads, bridges, highways, and transit systems.
DeFazio worked to ensure the formula he negotiated six years earlier in the previous major transportation bill, SAFETEA-LU, remained in MAP-21. This means Oregon will remain a net-beneficiary and receive more dollars to fix its roads, bridges, and highways than it sends to Washington, D.C., through the gas tax.
MAP-21 also contained a temporary extension of county payments for Oregon counties, as well as one year of lower interest rates for college students who take out Stafford student loans; these rates were set to increase from 3.4% to 6.8%.
SAFETEA-LU (Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, Public Law 109-59)
In 2005, DeFazio served as the ranking Democrat on the Highways Subcommittee where he helped negotiate a five-year federal highway and transit spending bill called SAFETEA-LU. Under the bill DeFazio secured a total of $2.7 billion for Oregon.
Of those funds, DeFazio was able to boost the amount of highway formula funds Oregon received by $510 million over the previous bill for a total of $2.21 billion. He also secured $297.2 million in transit formula funding, and another $200 million to repair Oregon's bridges – $160 million of which was used for the reconstruction of crumbling bridges along I-5, and another $40 million was used for reconstruction of bridges across Oregon.
Restoration of the Coos Bay Rail Line
The Coos Bay Rail Line was embargoed by the Central Oregon and Pacific Railroad (CORP), a subsidiary of Fortress/RailAmerica, in September 2007. The embargo resulted in the loss of hundreds of jobs and negatively impacted businesses in Southwest Oregon. Once CORP embargoed the Coos Bay Rail Line, DeFazio worked tirelessly with the Port of Coos Bay, and state, and local shippers to get the line reopened.
In 2008, DeFazio testified before the Surface Transportation Board and requested they approve the Port's application to force the sale of the line to the Port from CORP. In March 2009, DeFazio secured $8 million in federal funds to help the Port buy the rail line.
Later, DeFazio requested the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) award $13.5 million in competitive grant funds to finish repairs on the Coos Bay Rail Line. The DOT fast-tracked the response and obligated the funding to the Port.
In 2011, DeFazio secured another $2.5 million in federal funds for the rehabilitate and repair the Coos Bay Rail Line. These funds will help the Port of Coos Bay purchase additional railroad ties so trains operating on the line can run at faster speeds.
Funding To Dredge South Coast Ports
DeFazio has been a leader on coastal and maritime issues. One of his proudest accomplishments in Congress has been his ability to secure needed funds so small coastal ports on the West Coast are properly dredged. DeFazio has successfully restored dredging funding slashed by both Republican and Democratic presidents.
In 2010, DeFazio secured $8,742,000 in dredging funds for Southwest Oregon ports in the 2010 Energy and Water Appropriations Act. He has also successfully fought to ensure federal hopper dredge fleet, the Yaquina and the Essayons, are maintained for operation on the West Coast without restrictions.
Highways & Transit
Surface Transportation Reauthorization
Congress will soon begin work on a new highway bill. As ranking member, DeFazio will be a key architect of the multi-year authorization bill that primarily funds highways and transit, and will work to bring needed infrastructure spending to Oregon to help create jobs and improve our long-term economic viability.
DeFazio believes we must pass a bill that is funded at levels to maintain and improve our nation’s infrastructure. Investments in transportation do more than create efficient transportation networks – it also gives a real boost to our economy. DeFazio believes investing in our transportation system creates jobs in Oregon and across the nation that cannot be exported to China or anywhere else. He also believes it is a priority to find solutions that guarantee the Highway Trust Fund remains solvent.
In two previous highway bills, MAP-21 (2012) and SAFETEA-LU (2005), DeFazio secured $1.1 billion and $2.7 billion for Oregon's roads, bridges, highways, and transit systems, respectively.
DeFazio has developed a reputation as an articulate and persistent advocate for the interests of the flying public during his tenure in Congress. Most notably, DeFazio worked on the Aviation and Transportation Security Act passed by Congress and signed into law in November 2001, after the terrorist attacks. The legislation improved the security of our nation's airports and airways by federalizing airport screeners, increasing the number of Federal Air Marshals, and improving bag screening at airports, among other things. He also authored an amendment which was incorporated into the bill, to allow all commercial airline pilots the option to be certified and armed.
Congress is currently considering a new FAA Reauthorization bill. As a senior member on aviation, DeFazio intends to advocate in support of maintaining and improving air service to small and medium sized communities. He will also advocate for passenger rights including the creation of an 1-800 number for aviation complaints, public notification for those who fly into countries that still use disinsection, banning cell phone voice communications during flight, and evaluation of denied boarding compensation among other issues.
In 2012, Congress passed a four-year, $63.4 billion reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration. DeFazio led the effort to open up eight new round-trip flights between National Airport (DCA) and airports located more than 1,250 miles away. This paved the way for new air service between Portland International Airport and DCA. DeFazio was also successful in establishing a consumer toll-free hotline for aviation complaints.
DeFazio is well-regarded as an advocate for freight and passenger rail systems. Over the years, he has supported increased funding and investments in passenger rail services. He was instrumental in securing a special high speed rail corridor designation for the Northwest in the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, enacted in 1991. He has also consistently supported increased funding for Amtrak and believes it will never live up to its full potential if it's consistently underfunded.
In Oregon, DeFazio helped secure almost $12 million to renovate the Albany Train Station, and $3 million for renovation of the Eugene Train Station. He has also helped the State of Oregon get needed funds for additional Talgo train sets enhancing passenger rail service.
DeFazio has also fought to preserve our nation’s freight rail capacity. His effort to save the Coos Bay Rail Line from abandonment by a hedge fund garnered national attention. He helped secure a $13.5 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant and redesignated an $8 million appropriation to help the Port of Coos Bay preserve this rail line. He has also been an advocate for short haul rail and created a pilot program to help develop intermodal projects.
Oregon’s coastal channels are heavily used by recreational boaters and commercial fisherman, and are mainstays for communities struggling to maintain their fisheries. Preserving the maintenance of way for these ports, and maintaining port infrastructure, is vital for the economy of the region and the safety of boating public.
Without regular removal of sand and silt through dredging, the shallow channels that make up the entrances to ports swiftly deteriorate and become dangerous, even impossible, to navigate. Impassable channels leave coastal communities without the commercial shipping, fishing, recreational boating, and even Coast Guard operations that their economic livelihoods depend upon.
Throughout his tenure, DeFazio has fought successfully to secured federal funds through earmarks to dredge small ports along Oregon’s south coast. But in the wake of the earmark ban that began in the 112th Congress, Congress has left the future for dredging funds for Oregon’s ports to agency bureaucrats.
Prior to the ban, DeFazio secured $8,742,000 in dredging funds for Southwest Oregon ports in the 2010 Energy and Water Appropriations Act. In 2009, DeFazio also secured $340,900 for the Port of Coos Bay to replace an outdated and unsafe ice machine on the Charleston ice dock.
More on Transportation & Infrastructure
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