STARTER 2.0: Common Sense Solutions to Fix America's Infrastructure

Straight Talk with Sam

Roads and bridges are what most folks think of when we talk about infrastructure. Surface transportation has always been key to our country’s success and it’s something we can’t afford to let slide.

Last year, when it was time to renew Congress’s priorities and funding for roads and bridges, we instead got a Green New Deal-style bill with some roads and bridges thrown in for good measure. Speaker Pelosi came in and said, “it’s my way or the highway.” In what has historically been a bipartisan issue, Republicans were shut out of the process and the bill failed. A similar approach this time won’t fly if we want to get a bipartisan bill done.

We need to pass a multi-year surface transportation reauthorization, often referred to as the “highway bill.” We’ve gotten one passed many times, most recently in 2015 when I was the Chair of the Highways and Transit Subcommittee. The key to each of these bills was broad bipartisan support.

This week, as Ranking Member of the Transportation Committee, I introduced a highway bill with Republican priorities that must be addressed to have a bipartisan package in the House. It’s quite simple—build roads and bridges, get the government out of the way, and make sure that rural America isn’t ignored. 

Building upon last year’s Surface Transportation Advanced through Reform, Technology, & Efficient Review (STARTER) Act, this new STARTER Act 2.0 focuses on core infrastructure programs – like fixing our roads and bridges – rather than creating a bunch of new programs and mandates that just get in the way of fixing and improving our Nation’s infrastructure.

STARTER 2.0 will provide for greater flexibility for states to meet their own unique transportation needs and priorities and streamline project delivery by cutting red tape to reduce delays and costs. It’s time to get the bureaucrats out of the way and let the builders do the work.

Our rural communities contain 71 percent of public road mileage, but somehow seem to get the shaft time after time. Not only will STARTER 2.0 protect the existing programs that are important to these areas, but it further invests in our small and rural communities.
Innovation and technology are critical to improving our infrastructure, as is the idea that our infrastructure should be more resilient to severe weather like flooding. These are key pieces of this legislation. Finally, we’ve got to put the Highway Trust Fund on a path to long-term sustainability so we can pay for these improvements.

There’s no doubt that our infrastructure needs to be improved. However, it must be done in a bipartisan fashion with common sense solutions that move America forward as we’ve done many times over the course of history. It remains to be seen if Speaker Pelosi will agree.


Sam Graves