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 – At a hearing on “the State of Trucking in America” today, Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, heard witnesses endorse his Stop Underrides Act (H.R. 1511/S. 665). The bipartisan, bicameral bill would require the current federal standards for rear and underride guards to be upgraded to meet current industry standards as well as the installation of side and front guards to prevent cars from slipping under trucks in accidents.
WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation, today announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation will provide the Millington-Memphis Airport $10 million in supplemental funding to rehabilitate runways.
This funding is part of $779 million in supplemental funding for 127 small and rural airports announced by U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
Congressman Cohen made the following statement:
WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation, questioned Federal Aviation Administration Acting Administrator Daniel K. Elwell about two fatal crashes of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in October 2018 and in March of this year. See the exchange here.
During his exchange with Administrator Elwell, Congressman Cohen asked: “I believe every country grounded the MAX before we did. Every country. How were we last?”
WASHINGTON – Today, in a hearing on highway safety in the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, Congressman Steve Cohen provided a statement encouraging the committee to consider his four bipartisan highway safety bills.
“According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 37,133 people lost their lives in accidents on U.S. roadways in 2017. That’s 100 people dying each day in motor vehicle crashes. We must do better, said Congressman Cohen.
Washington, DC – Representatives Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA) and Steve Cohen (D-TN) introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Stop Underrides Act to help prevent deadly truck underride crashes with Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Marco Rubio (R-FL).
MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A Tennessee lawmaker has introduced a bill that would change the way law enforcement across the country reports DUI arrests.
The DUI Reporting Act would harmonize law enforcement reporting of DUI arrests, allowing police officers anywhere immediate access to the latest data, including pending cases, during traffic stops.
“Repeat offenders are the problems, and repeat offenders need to be known and charged that way,” said Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tennessee. “They need to get some guaranteed jail time and guaranteed treatment to protect the driving public.”
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Federal and state lawmakers are calling on the Tennessee Valley Authority to expedite its efforts to clean-up the toxic coal ash in Memphis.
TVA said there are nearly three million cubic yards of coal ash still sitting at the site on President’s Island.
State Senator Brian Kelsey introduced a resolution on Wednesday urging TVA to do more to make ensure the city’s drinking water is protected since there are some toxins near the site that threaten the water supply.
WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) today introduced the DUI Reporting Act to address the loophole in our nation’s drunken-driving laws that enables repeat DUI offenders to be charged and tried as first-time offenders because of inconsistent reporting.
The bill has been endorsed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and has in the past received overwhelming bipartisan support.
WASHINGTON – Congressmen Steve Cohen (D-TN), a senior member of the House Subcommittee on Aviation, today called on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to ground 737 Max 8 planes until it can confirm that they are safe to fly. See his letter to Acting FAA Administrator Daniel K. Elwell here. Cohen’s actions followed a deadly Ethiopian Airlines crash this week which killed 157, and a Lion Air crash in Indonesia in October.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Congressman Steve Cohen is now calling on the FAA to ground all Boeing 737 MAX 8 airplanes after recent safety concerns.
Twenty airlines have taken the MAX 8 planes out of service in the last two days following the deadly
crash shortly after takeoff in Ethiopia.
About 350 are in operation which equates to about 8,500 flights a week around the world.
The jet came on the market in 2017. Each one costs about $121 million. Their engines are 40 percent quieter and 14 percent more fuel efficient than previous models.