Infrastructure is finally at the center of U.S. political discourse. But debates about the border wall aren’t what Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio, the new chairman of the House’s transportation and infrastructure committee, wants to talk about. He wants to sound the alarm about the backlog of repairs fueling an economic—and environmental—crisis.
“If we don’t make these investments, we’re going to become more carbon-intensive, in terms of transportation, and have the potential for economic catastrophe when something like the tunnels under the Hudson River go down,” says DeFazio. “I’m going to approach it from a very hard-hearted way: Boy, you’re stupid if you don’t make these investments.”
DeFazio has spent much of his career working on bipartisan plans to boost spending on important transportation projects. He takes control of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee during a pivotal time, when technology advances, long-term funding issues, and climate change demand a comprehensive, forward-thinking plan.
After last November’s elections, the congressman said he hoped to pass a new infrastructure bill through the House in the first six months of the new Congress. While the shutdown has changed his calculations—DeFazio has spent the last few weeks working to get back pay and benefits to federal workers, including members of the Coast Guard and TSA—he plans to meet with the committee this Thursday and plan its first hearing.
Curbed spoke to DeFazio about his plans for the transportation committee, how new technology is changing the game, and an easy way to improve Congressional cooperation.
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