Rebuilding roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects after they are wiped out by storms, floods and other disasters is increasingly urgent as climate change drives severe weather events.
But “too often, highway infrastructure is rebuilt to pre-disaster specifications, leaving roads and bridges vulnerable to another disaster,” U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin said in a statement on the bipartisan infrastructure reforms that passed a Senate committee on Tuesday.
The Senate Committee on Environment and Public works passed America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act, which includes provisions from two bipartisan bills authored by Baldwin. One of those measures requires the Federal Highway Administration to give states the guidance and tools they need to build “resilient” infrastructure after a disaster, in order to be prepared for the next disaster. The second bill provides data to states and local governments to measure accessibility to local businesses and important destinations. It also inform investments in transportation systems.
Emergency preparedness has been complicated by anti-climate-change politics in Washington, DC and the states. In Wisconsin the words “climate change” were purged from official state communications by former Gov. Scott Walker.
Gov. Tony Evers promised to reverse Walker’s anti-science legacy, and to make policy based on the premise that “climate change is real and it’s an imminent threat to our state and to our economy.” State websites have begun restoring language that specifically addresses climate change, to help communities cope with and plan for extreme heat, flooding and other consequences of global warming.
In a letter to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Baldwin, along with 40 other Senate co-signers, pointed out that “the transportation sector is now the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in our country.” Legislation on the nation’s roads and infrastructure must “take meaningful steps to address the transportation sectors’ contribution to climate change” and “make necessary long-term investments to make sure our nation’s infrastructure is more resilient to the variety of hazards posed by future climate conditions.”
In addition to the resilience measures passed by the committee, Baldwin and the other letter signers recommend a $500 million investment per year from the Highway Trust Fund in electric charging stations and hydrogen-fueling infrastructure for low-emissions cars, as well as $1 billion per year for emissions-reducing transportation plans.