Public transportation in particular helps those without access to cars to travel to work, pick up groceries, go to doctor’s appointments, visit loved ones, and conduct daily activities. In cities large and small, mass transit serves as a vital resource for all of our constituents, and particularly those who are low-income. Transportation is often the second highest household expense, and in addition to working to keep transit costs from rising, we need to ensure that services are not cut. While ridership for public transportation has increased, budget cuts have forced many transit agencies across the country to cut services which forces all of our constituents to find other methods to meet their transportation needs. A solution to this problem is to provide flexibility to transit systems to use federal funding to preserve service and jobs. Unfortunately, an amendment to include this language in H.R. 7 failed during Committee markup.

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Similarly, Amtrak must receive sufficient funding. In 1970, Congress created Amtrak to provide our nation with intercity passenger railroad service. Despite the recent increase in ridership levels on the Northeast Corridor, funding for Amtrak has consistently been targeted throughout the years.  Amtrak plays a vital role in the Northeast Corridor, which includes my communities and the towns and cities between Washington, DC and Boston, MA. This region is fraught with congestion that is a waste of not only time, but money. Amtrak provides another option for commuters while also creating environmental benefits by cutting down on air pollution. Service along the Northeast Corridor illustrates our country’s potential to have true high speed rail service.

Competitive grants that are based on their innovation and performance have proven to be successful at taking the politics out of the funding equation.  Like many of my colleagues, my district was fortunate to receive Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants. In 2010, the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission received a grant to use new technologies to ease congestion along highways in Bergen and Hudson counties.  Under this grant, modernized signal systems to current traffic conditions and result in reduced delays, and fuel emissions. Also in 2010, the Canal Crossing project was awarded a TIGER grant to transform a 111 acre site that was previously an industrial site. The project will create a transit-oriented development that will connect residents to the light rail, bus, bicycle, and pedestrian walkways. Linking transportation opportunities to affordable housing will allow residents to get to work more easily. Additionally, I believe that a dedicated freight competitive grant program would go a long way in making the goods movement more efficient.  With freight expected to double by 2035, our nation’s transportation system must be prepared. The future success of our economy is closely tied to an efficient system of moving goods.

Americans must be given the opportunity to get back to work and better our nation. They are waiting for Congress to act. Investing in infrastructure gives us the opportunity to not only create immediate jobs, but to also create a lasting economic impact in communities across the nation.

Rep. Sires (D-N.J.) is a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.