U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), senior member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, questioned witnesses about working towards a broad bipartisan infrastructure package in an EPW hearing today. Witnesses included the Honorable Elaine Chao, Secretary of the United States Department of Transportation and the Honorable R.D. James, Assistant Secretary of the Army Civil Works.
Inhofe: … This is so significant, what we are doing here and I’m very excited about it, very positive about it. We have been—just to clarify—in contact with our committees. Two committees, Commerce and Environment and Public Works, and the White House—the administration—many many times. We got a good running start. Good things are happening. I was encouraged by the president’s proposal. I think we can all come together and there’s no better evidence of that than a joint Wall Street Journal article that was written by Senator Whitehouse and me just last week and I ask unanimous consent that it be made a part of the record at this point and it was very positive. I’m very serious when I say this Madame Secretary, because Senator Whitehouse is one of the more progressive Democrats, I’m a conservative Republican and we agree on this stuff. … The Harvard-Harris poll shows that, 84 percent—84 percent of Americans—responded that we need to invest more in our infrastructure. …
Inhofe: … Secretary Chao, we’ll be looking forward to working with you. Our Oklahoma Department of Transportation has shared with me that for each year of delay for a project three percent of cost actually goes up, so timing is important and when funding is scarce and hard fought to earn, this can really limit what our states and local entities can accomplish. I appreciate the Administration’s recognition of this fact with their focus on project delivery reform. Now, we did a great a great job in the FAST Act with a lot of project delivery reforms. It was huge, so we got a lot more miles done than we would have otherwise. … Can project delivery be both timely and environmentally sound? I would ask you to respond on that, if you would.
Chao: Of course. Out of the 30 different regulations required by the FAST Act, everything has been done except for two, and they should be coming out by June of this year. On the other issues, about one federal decision, which was announced last August 2017. This actually addresses more than the FAST Act. It addresses multi-departmental, multi-agency coordination. We are finding that as we go and implement what the FAST Act has asked, that there are larger problems about permitting that spans the whole government, which is why we need to tackle the rest of the permitting processes in the other departments on a multi-agency basis.