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Let’s keep Oregon moving forward and pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill

Guest Column by Congressman Kurt Schrader (OR-05):

From the Central Oregon Coast to the Willamette Valley, the congressional district I represent is one of the most geographically, economically and politically diverse districts in the nation. But sometimes there are fundamental needs that transcend regions and party lines to draw universal support. Remaking our transportation, water, energy and broadband infrastructure into a system that works for everyone is one of those needs. Investment is critical to assure a successful long-term recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and reassert our global competitiveness.

Oregon, like so many states around the nation, is struggling to meet our unique infrastructure demands, but history shows it doesn’t have to be this way. The United States led the world for much of the 20th century when it came to infrastructure investment. But that is no longer the case. The American Society of Civil Engineers puts out an annual report card on the different infrastructure systems around the country. Each report card shows we are falling further and further behind. That delayed investment has a direct impact on Oregonians. It raises prices for our goods and services; it adds time to our commutes; it pollutes our planet; it costs us millions of jobs that help sustain our local communities; and it makes us less competitive in the international marketplace.

I have long called for comprehensive infrastructure bills that put real investments into our failing system. That’s why I am championing the largest investment ever in America’s infrastructure—the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. When talks stalled between the White House and the Senate earlier this year on the infrastructure portion of President Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan, my bipartisan Problem Solvers caucus stepped in with a draft framework to show a path forward. The end result? Democrats and Republicans came together to find common ground and put together a historic package that makes the largest investment in our highway system since the Eisenhower Administration; the largest investment in passenger rail since Amtrak’s founding; and the largest investments in public transit, clean energy transmission, broadband and clean drinking water and sewer programs in American history – all while creating millions of good-paying jobs.

Real dollars from this landmark legislation will go right into our local communities, delivering big wins for Oregon. This includes $3.4 billion for Oregon federal highways, almost $750 million for Oregon public transit and at least $100 million to ensure every Oregonian will have access to affordable and reliable high-speed broadband, no matter where they live—including nearly 137,000 Oregonians who currently lack internet access. The bill will also fund a significant expansion to our electric vehicle charging network and energy transmission that will help ease Oregonians’ EV range anxiety and combat the climate crisis. We cannot let these wide-ranging investments fall by the wayside, especially at a critical point when the country is rebounding from the pandemic and on the road to economic recovery.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed in the Senate with the support of 69 senators, including Mitch McConnell and Bernie Sanders, only to get stuck in the House despite leadership’s promises to move it forward. This essential bipartisan bill is ready to go on its own merits and should not be left in limbo as we wait to consider separate legislation. I am urging my colleagues to send this fiscally responsible physical infrastructure bill to the President’s desk without any further delay.