I traveled to Kearney this week to inaugurate the new I-35 and 19th Street interchange. To say this project has been a long time coming would be a huge understatement.
My involvement began in 2005 when I worked with the late Rep. Don Young, who was chair of the transportation committee at the time, to secure $1.2 million for a project study in the roads that year. The work finally begins. It’s crazy, but it’s not uncommon.
Major infrastructure projects like this are often delayed. It takes an average of 7 years to complete a major infrastructure project. Many take much longer and often take years of behind-the-scenes work just to get to the starting line.
It’s incredibly frustrating for communities, especially ones like Kearney, where local citizens fund a large majority of the project. Too often, these types of delays are due to the jumble of paperwork that people have to go through for every infrastructure project. The DOT, EPA, and many other three-letter agencies all have their own rules to follow, and none of them work together.
My experiences and frustrations with this project, and so many others like it, greatly influenced my time in Congress. One of my top priorities has been fixing this mess of paperwork that is holding projects back. This was one of the objectives of the STARTER Act 2.0, which I presented at the beginning of last year. It also included historic investments in our country’s infrastructure.
Unfortunately, the bill we ultimately found ourselves stuck in did almost nothing to address these issues. Instead, he threw hundreds of billions of dollars that we don’t have on our infrastructure problem. And now, with the price of road materials rising 20% last year, much of that investment is being eaten away by inflation.
It shouldn’t be like this. We could have made real reforms to the authorization process for infrastructure projects and made responsible and profitable investments in our infrastructures. I know because we’ve done it before. During my time in Congress, I voted for 3 truly bipartisan highway bills. I wish it was the fourth.
We need to fix the broken project approval process and shore up the Highway Trust Fund. Until we do that, we’re just throwing good money after bad. This is exactly what the President’s latest infrastructure bill does.
Sam Graves is the U.S. Representative for Mo’s Sixth District.