The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure held its first hearing of the year on January 14. The hearing, titled “Building the Foundation for Surface Transportation Reauthorization,” was an important step for the committee charged with developing a new long-term bill to fund our nation’s surface transportation programs since the last bill, MAP-21, expires at the end of September.
Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, R. Pa., urged lawmakers to develop solutions that ensure job creation: “The next bill must ensure that our surface transportation system can continue to support the U.S. economy and provide Americans with a good quality of life.”
Witnesses largely highlighted the importance of infrastructure investments to state and local economies and the urgent need for developing new and stable funding sources. In testimony submitted for the record, Lawrence Hanley, international president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, AFL-CIO, stated, “[t]oday, as was the case in 1964, inequities in our society still exist, especially in the area of transportation. Service for the elderly and people with disabilities is substandard and in many places disgraceful.”
The Leadership Conference applauds lawmakers for continued efforts to move forward on a reauthorization of the surface transportation bill. As noted by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., transportation policy is a key civil rights issue. He wrote, “If transportation systems in American cities could be laid out so as to provide an opportunity for poor people to get meaningful employment, then they could begin to move into the mainstream of American life.”
There is much at stake for the civil and human rights community in developing and improving our nation’s federal infrastructure. As lawmakers consider how best to rebuild and repair our nation’s roads, bridges, railways and ports, and where and how to prioritize investments in public transportation and pedestrian and bicycle access, it is vital that the needs of communities of color, low-income people, people with disabilities, seniors, and the rural poor are considered and incorporated.