I am proud to have the honor of representing Memphis, the transportation capitol of the United States and the world, on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. When it comes to transportation assets, no place in the world can rival Memphis. Memphis has the busiest cargo airport in the country, three interstates, five Class I railroads, and the fourth largest inland port in the United States. Transportation is the economic engine of Memphis, and I am committed to working to ensure that it remains the number one transportation infrastructure town in America.
The number one priority and issue for me and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is the passage of the next surface transportation authorization legislation.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the transportation system is that the cost of needed maintenance of existing surface transportation infrastructure assets continues to increase. As a result, the quality of our transportation system is deteriorating. Recent studies conducted by the Department of Transportation show that -
- Almost 61,000 miles, 37 percent, of all lane miles on the National Highway System (NHS) are in poor or fair condition.
- More than 146,000 bridges - almost one of every four bridges in the United States - are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
- More than 32,500 public transit buses and vans in urban areas have exceeded their useful life.
- Congestion is crippling our major cities and even our small towns, at a cost of more than $87 billion a year, causing hardship for drivers and increasing costs and inefficiencies for America's businesses.
- Accidents and traffic delays cost Americans more than $365 billion a year - $1 billion a day - or $1,200 for every man, woman, and child in the nation.
These deficiencies indicate a clear need to immediately invest in our infrastructure and services.
As a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I am currently working with Congressional leaders to provide authorization funding for highway and infrastructure projects of importance to the city of Memphis. Investment in public transit, highways, bridges, commuter and freight rail as well as various transit hubs, including Memphis International Airport, plays a vital role in furthering development in our community.
During the 111th Congress, I helped secure more than $112 million in transportation and infrastructural investment through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, appropriations bills, and other federal grant programs. Some examples of transportation projects include:
- $17,772,564 to replace 35 buses and install advanced transportation technology on transit vehicles and trolleys.
- $2,979,271 for the Memphis Clifford Davis-Odell Horton Federal Building
- $4,163,630 for a surface repaving project on I-240 from Madison Avenue to I-55 and on I-55 from Nonconnah Creek to I-240.
- $17,941,582 to construct a new taxiway, improve the terminal building, install airfield guidance signs and perimeter fencing, and make runway improvements at Memphis International Airport.
- $1,603,000 for Dredging and Mapping at McKellar Lake.
From my position on the committee, I have fought hard to maintain the viability of FedEx and will continue to do so as your representative. Federal Express is the world's largest express transportation company and has made Memphis International Airport the largest cargo operation of any airport in the world, providing fast and reliable services for more than 2.8 million items to over 220 countries each working day.
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
In order to rebuild our weakening economy, investments in our infrastructure will put Tennesseans immediately to work rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges and will also enable the creation of a stronger and more efficient infrastructure for the 21st century economy. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act includes $701,516,776 in Transportation and Infrastructure Investment for the State of Tennessee:
- $572,701,043 for Highways and Bridges
- $71,988,324 in Transit Capital Investments
- $57,814,400 for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund
- $28,040 for Transit Fixed-Guideway Modernization
I was selected to serve as a member of a House-Senate conference committee during the 114th Congress to finalize the first multi-year highway bill in a decade: the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act)(H.R. 22). The bill was signed into law by President Obama on December 4, 2015. Key features of the law include:
- Authorizes for $305 billion nationally to rebuild roads and bridges and fund public transit, freight and Amtrak. This funding will include local highway projects like improvements to Lamar Avenue.
- Congressman Cohen’s amendment to help expand and improve paratransit services like Memphis Area Transit Authority’s MATAplus Service for seniors, veterans and individuals with disabilities.
- A provision championed by Congressman Cohen to make transit-oriented development projects eligible for financing under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA). Transit-oriented development includes housing in varying income ranges, jobs, improved environment for pedestrians and bicyclists, within a short distance of a transit stop.
- $3.7 billion for bus transit programs – a 75 percent increase over current funding levels. Availability of this funding will enable MATA to seek federal money to buy additional buses and expand operations to better connect Memphians to work, school and their communities.
During the 111th Congress, I have introduced several pieces of legislation that will improve the transportation infrastructure in Memphis, create thousands of jobs, and make the city more economically competitive.
H.R. 4287 - Enhancing Livability for All Americans Act of 2009
This groundbreaking legislation creates an Office of Livability within the Department of Transportation's Office of the Secretary. This idea has generated significant support throughout government and was incorporated into President's Obama 2011 Budget and will, more than likely, be created this year. With its strategic location in the Office of the Secretary, the Office of Livability will yield significant power and be responsible for implementing livability policies throughout the Department. More than simply a policy shop, the office is also tasked with working with communities to enhance livability on a local level. This community engagement will take place in two realms:
- The office will manage a robust discretionary grant program that will provide grants to communities for both planning and project implementation.
- The office will provide technical assistance to communities studying and implementing livability projects.
H.R. 5236 - Aerotropolis Act of 2010
This legislation will amend the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) to ensure that projects that assist in the establishment of aerotropolis transportation systems are eligible to receive funds under the Projects of National and Regional Significance Program.
Currently, aerotropolis transportation systems are developing in cities across the United States like Memphis and Detroit, but these cities are not able to generate sufficient funding for these complex, intermodal networks. This legislation has the potential to provide tens of millions of dollars in much needed funding for essential projects in our aerotropolis transportation system such as the new multimodal bridge over the Mississippi River, the completion of I-69, and the connection of I-22 through Lamar Avenue to I-240.
In response to the Deepwater Horizon tragedy, I introduced this critical legislation, and the concept has been incorporated into the House of Representatives oil spill response legislation. This legislation would allow only American flagged vessels to engage in drilling activities in American coastal waters. Doing so will ensure that drilling in American waters is performed with a high level of safety and oversight.
As a Marshall Islands flagged vessel, the Deepwater Horizon was subject to a safety examination that took between four and eight hours and was performed by a private entity that had been paid for by the vessel owner - a significant conflict of interest. This inspection pales in comparison to those undertaken by U.S. flagged vessels which are performed by the Coast Guard and take two to three weeks. By ensuring that in the future all vessels drilling for oil in U.S. coastal waters are American flagged vessels and meet American safety standards, this legislation will help avert future monumental tragedies such as the Deepwater Horizon.
This legislation directs the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to establish a grant program to improve the ability of trauma center hospitals and airports to withstand earthquakes. These grants will be directed towards facilities located in seismically hazardous areas that have the greatest need for seismic retrofitting and will be the most critical following a catastrophic earthquake. If enacted, this legislation would enable the MED and Memphis International Airport to apply for funding to seismically retrofit their facilities.
This resolution creates a National Streetscaping Week which recognizes the work being done in rural and urban areas throughout the United States to become more physically and socially desirable places to live, work, and visit. At the heart of this objective is the desire to create communities that are attractive, safe, bicycle and pedestrian friendly, and environmentally sustainable. Development of such communities will improve the quality of life for all citizens and foster economic development.
More on Transportation
[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today attended a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Hearing entitled Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America with FedEx Chairman and CEO Fred Smith.
Washington, D.C. (Jan. 11, 2016) — Today, Congressmen Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-TN), and Steve Cohen (D-TN) sent a letter to Congressmen Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, to request a hearing on school bus safety.
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Ahead of a busy week for holiday air travel, and in response to shrinking airplane seats, Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN), a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation, and Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) today announced that they will reintroduce the Seat Egress in Air Travel (SEAT) Act early next year during the new Congress. The SEAT Act would establish a minimum seat size on commercial airlines as well as a minimum distance between rows of seats to protect the safety and health of airline passengers.
[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, hailed passage by the House of Representatives of the National Urban Search and Rescue Response System Act of 2016 (S.2971). The bill was previously approved by the Senate and will now head to the President’s desk. This bill would authorize the National Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) program and codify protections for USAR team members, such as workers’ compensation and liability protections.
[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, today introduced the Bring Enhanced Liability in Transportation for Students (BELTS) Act to help protect children who ride on school buses. The bill would create federal grants to purchase new school buses with lap/shoulder seat belts or equip existing ones with such belts and creates federal grants to equip school buses with motion-activated detection systems.
The giant locomotive whistles, the inspiring speeches, the dazzling display of rainbow lighting on the Harahan Bridge at night, and the first treks across the bridge by foot and by bike are all embedded in Memphis history now, after a weekend that won’t be forgotten by those who were there.