U.S. must improve infrastructure: Biden transportation nominee

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President-elect Joe Biden announces transportation secretary nominee Buttigieg at his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware
Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to be secretary of transportation, reacts to his nomination as Biden looks on during a news conference at Biden’s transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., December 16, 2020.
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/Pool/File Photo

By David Shepardson, Reuters

President Joe Biden’s nominee to head the U.S. Transportation Department will tell a U.S. Senate panel on Thursday the United States must improve its infrastructure.

“We also have a lot of work to do to improve the infrastructure in this country, a mission that will not only keep more people safe, but also grow our economy as we look to the future,” former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg will say, according to a copy of his prepared remarks.

Biden put Buttigieg – a rival for the Democratic presidential nomination last year – in charge of the department that oversees aviation, highways, vehicles, pipelines and transit.

In April 2019, then President Donald Trump and Democratic leaders agreed to spend $2 trillion over a decade – but the president never proposed any new revenue source to pay for the upgrades – and never made it a priority.

“Infrastructure Week” became a long-running joke in the Trump administration as other unrelated events often overtook the effort to rebuild roads, bridges and airports.

“Now is the time, and we have a real chance to deliver for the American people,” Buttigieg will say in his testimony.

Biden said last week he will ask Congress in February for “historic investments in infrastructure and manufacturing, innovation, research and development, and clean energy.”

Biden has also vowed to boost fuel economy standards that were slashed under Trump and take steps to increase the number of electric vehicles on American roads.

Congress has abandoned a decades-old policy of largely using fuel tax revenue to fund infrastructure repairs.

Since 2008, Congress has transferred about $141 billion to the Highway Trust Fund, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Congress failed again last year to approve a multi-year surface transportation bill and instead passed a one-year extension that expires Sept. 30.

Congress has not boosted the 18.4-cents-per-gallon federal gasoline tax since 1993. That tax is now worth just 10.2 cents after adjusting for inflation.