Today, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), helped unanimously pass a bipartisan five-year transportation infrastructure package. She successfully included her own legislation to help address mobility challenges in rural areas and a provision that gives states the option to use federal highway funding for lock and dam rehabilitation and modernization.
Ernst also successfully included a transportation-focused version of her Billion Dollar Boondoggle Act—legislation requiring the full disclosure of government-funded projects that are $1 billion or more over budget or five years or more behind schedule—so massive and wasteful projects like California’s infamous high-speed train to nowhere or the $1 billion-per-mile Hawaiian train boondoggle are exposed to the public.
In addition, Ernst spoke in support of Iowa’s farmers and biofuel producers, raising issue with a charging and fueling infrastructure grant program that unfairly neglects biofuel.
“This bipartisan infrastructure package—which passed with unanimous support—includes my efforts to modernize our locks and dams, help address mobility challenges in rural areas, and ensure our state gets the support they need. This bill includes support for real infrastructure projects that will have a direct impact on Iowa communities, and it brings transparency and accountability for projects over budget and behind schedule,” said Ernst. “This bill should be our starting point for a bipartisan infrastructure plan, instead of the Democrats’ nearly $2 trillion proposal that spends less on fixing potholes and repairing roads than on promoting electric vehicles.”
Senator Ernst successfully secured the following provisions into the bipartisan package:
·A transportation access pilot program modeled off of Ernst’s COMMUTE Act –Establishes a competitive grant program at the U.S. DOT to develop and provide states, metropolitan planning organizations, and rural planning organizations with accessibility data for use in transportation planning efforts.
·Lock and Dam Modernization – Allows states to use federal highway funding for lock and dam modernization and rehabilitation projects to address aging and inadequate water infrastructure that threatens the economic viability of farmers, manufacturers, shippers, and other stakeholders.
·Highway Funding for Iowa – Ensures Iowa’s share of federal highway funding is maintained in the new authorization.
·Paperwork Reduction for State Departments of Transportation (DOTs) – Makes duplicative reporting requirements for work zone process reviews and transportation management plans less burdensome for state DOTs.
·Ernst’s Billion Dollar Boondoggle Act – Requires the full disclosure of government-funded transportation projects that are $1 billion or more over budget or five years or more behind schedule.
The package also includes a new competitive grant program to help states and local entities rehabilitate or replace structurally deficient bridges, a particularly important part of the bill for Iowa, which currently has the most structurally deficient bridges in the nation.