Ever since the 2016 presidential campaign, addressing the nation’s infrastructure needs has been at the forefront of discussions in Washington. The issue remains in the public consciousness, and the Trump administration should be credited for taking bold, concrete steps to expedite the completion of critical projects.
In recent years, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has passed important pieces of legislation to improve and reform the way we invest in infrastructure. These bills got bipartisan support because our committee understands how essential these projects are to every American and our economic competitiveness as a nation.
As the conversation about a broad infrastructure plan continues, our committee is delivering on the administration’s promise to make it a priority for the American people. Four weeks ago, the House overwhelmingly approved an FAA and aviation infrastructure bill. This week, we turn our attention to the ports, levees, dams, inland waterways and other components of the nation’s water transportation system.
This delivery network improves the arteries of commerce that move goods from our heartland to the coasts. It connects American products to markets all over the world, accounting for billions in economic activity. The Missouri River, for example, benefits the entire region by delivering goods efficiently, inexpensively and in an environmentally-friendly manner.
To protect and improve all of this, we have introduced the Water Resources Development Act of 2018, or WRDA. It authorizes infrastructure enhancements that strengthen our economy, connect and protect our communities and bolster our competitiveness abroad.
One specific example of how this benefits Missouri is the Turkey Creek and Blue River Basin flood prevention project. These flood-vulnerable basins have suffered repeated devastating floods, costing lives and over $100 million in damages. The 2016 law authorized this project, which provided vital protection to the Kansas City metro area, including over a mile of levees, channel-widening, tunnel enhancements and bridge relocation. Due to be completed as soon as 2020, it will protect lives and livelihood from the normal flooding cycles.
We intend to continue addressing America’s needs and advancing other important flood prevention projects. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates and maintains approximately 700 dams and over 14,000 miles of levees. U.S. levees protect millions of Americans and over a trillion dollars’ worth of property and goods across the country. In fact, Missouri’s 6th District is home to the most levee miles in the entire country.
The Corps is also tasked with making critical navigation improvements. Whether you live in New York or Kansas City, most goods you use every day find their way to your marketplace after traveling along a portion of our 12,000 miles of navigable waterways and through a U.S. port. Furthermore, domestically grown and produced goods from every state — corn, soybeans, grain, coal, steel, petroleum and more — move by water. Shipping cargo by waterway is efficient and also significantly reduces the strain on our congested highways. WRDA helps by authorizing the ongoing maintenance of our nation’s ports and waterways.
Clearly, the Corps’ missions are vital, but the agency can be notoriously slow. Our bill will help improve Corps efficiency and further expedite the project delivery process to deliver on the president’s promise to cut red tape and bureaucratic delays.
There are many examples of why WRDA works. That’s why we are once again acting to increase its efficiency and move America’s infrastructure into the 21st century.
Sam Graves represents Missouri’s 6th District in the House of Representatives. He co-authored this with Rep. Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania, chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.