Strengthening infrastructure will brighten economic future of Houston and U.S.

Coauthored by U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster (PA) Chairman - Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and U.S. Rep. Brian Babin (TX-36) Member of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

Our transportation network is something many Americans take for granted. When it works, it usually goes unnoticed. But when it doesn’t function efficiently – when we are stuck in traffic or held up at the airport – it becomes more evident how transportation impacts our lives.

But transportation and infrastructure are about much more than our daily commutes. Our systems of roads, bridges, ports, waterways, railways, and runways are inextricably linked to one another, and to our economy. Transportation is about the variety of methods raw materials get to manufacturers and products get to market. It’s about how we obtain the goods we need and how much we pay for them. It’s fundamental to jobs and keeping America competitive in an increasingly competitive world.

Houston perfectly illustrates the importance of transportation to our economy. It’s America’s fourth largest city and a key business center. It’s the United States’ sixth most congested large city, lying at the intersection of two major Interstate highways. A third incomplete Interstate, I-69, represents a potential major north-south trade corridor. The region has the fourth largest airport system, and is home to both the country’s second busiest port in Houston and the seventh in nearby Corpus Christi. Houston is also the energy capital of the world, and southern terminus of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

That’s why, as leaders of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, we are convening a roundtable here today, March 10 to discuss the importance of a cohesive national transportation network with regionally important job creators like Kinder Morgan and Walmart, and transportation entities such as the Port of Houston and BNSF. Our mission is to gather input from local transportation and business leaders for future legislation, and ensure the federal government carries out its constitutional responsibility to maintain the efficient flow of interstate commerce.

One of our committee’s highest priorities this year is legislation to provide investment in our roads, bridges, and transit systems. The long-term, fiscally responsible bill we are developing will enhance the ability of state and local governments to plan major transportation improvements, give those state and local governments more authority to direct investment where it’s most needed, accelerate the delivery of projects, and focus more of our limited resources on freight movement and projects of national and regional significance.

Our committee’s other major priority in the coming months is a bill focused on improving U.S. aviation system efficiency, modernizing our World War II era air traffic control technology, and maintaining our global lead in an industry responsible for thousands of jobs in Houston, and millions more nationwide. Other countries have narrowed that lead and successfully modernized their air traffic systems. Federal Aviation Administration air traffic modernization efforts continue to be plagued by increasing delays, costs, and uncertainty, with no end in sight. Over the last decade, 13 of our 20 largest airports – including George Bush Intercontinental Airport – have experienced longer air traffic control delays. As the number of air travelers grows in the coming years, so will the strain on our aviation system.

We are working on a transformational aviation bill that will lead to a modern air traffic system, significantly greater efficiency, fewer delays, and a more secure future as the world’s aviation leader.

Passing major legislation through Congress is always challenging, but we’ve had previous successes with bills preparing other elements of our infrastructure for the future. Last year, the President signed into law the Transportation Committee’s measure to strengthen U.S. ports and inland waterways, which will help America accommodate larger post-Panama Canal expansion ships. Last week, with ridership increasing in various regions of the country, the House approved a bill to improve passenger rail transportation. These bills were achieved, for the benefit of all Americans, by finding common ground amongst our colleagues, state and local officials, the business community, and other stakeholders. In order to ready more of our infrastructure for the future, our committee is developing the surface transportation, aviation, and other bills in the same inclusive manner.

Improving each of these modes of transportation is important, but continuing to ensure the efficiency and seamlessness of the entire transportation network is critical to tomorrow’s economy in Houston and across America.

Originally published in The Kingwood Observer.


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