U.S. Rep. Blumenauer says nation's infrastructure,
including highways and bridges, needs attention
America’s infrastructure challenges, while perhaps most evident on highways and bridges, extends far beyond transportation, explains U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.).
Blumenauer joined fellow Congressman Mike Simpson of Idaho for a two-hour discussion on infrastructure funding Thursday in Boise. Although many of the comments related to transportation, including an address by ITD Deputy Director Scott Stokes (see related story), the overall presentation was of a more global nature. America's dams, pipelines, electric transmissions and municipal water/sewer systems are suffering from age and deterioration, the Congressman said.
Blumenauer represents Oregon’s 3rd District (north-central Oregon, including Portland) and has vast experience in transportation, planning and environmental issues. His innovative approach helped Portland earn an international reputation as one of America’s most livable cities.
Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1996, Blumenauer is committed to promoting livable communities at the federal level. He is a member of the Ways and Means Committee, the Budget Committee and the new Select Committee on Energy Independence and Climate Change.
The nation’s infrastructure is in serious disrepair and there’s nothing on the horizon that indicates communities are prepared to meet the challenge, he told a group of about 60 people.
“Today, we face an economy in trouble; we’re experiencing water stress from coast to coast, energy insecurity, deteriorating roads and bridges… “ He also referred to a hidden peril (underground water pipes), power transmission lines, the nation’s power grid and petroleum pipeline capacity and location.
“It’s not just about money,” Blumenauer said. “The federal government needs to be a better partner. W'ere already unable to keep the commitments of the last transportation bill and we’re beginning to work on the nest bill.”
He said planning needs to take a three-pronged approach:
Vision – No more" bridges to nowhere." Decision makers need to hear from the people and develop a vision for transportation.
Value – Getting more for each tax dollar. Federal, state and local governments need to work together to re-define the value of projects. They must be performance-driven, he said.
Innovation – Transportation funding needs a new approach that isn’t tied to traditional streams, such as fuel taxes. He wants to create a Water Trust Fund for improving community water systems and calls for a national “conversation,” 1,000 conversations from “coast to coast to renew/rebuild America.”