As a newly elected member of Congress, I’ve absorbed a lot of information in a short time. While many of the lessons I’ve learned concern things like navigating Washington, D.C.’s Metro and mapping out my new office in the U.S. Capitol, I’ve also had a chance to suss out where there are opportunities for the 116th Congress to make real, lasting progress on key issues.

From my conversations, I’ve found that, regardless of party affiliation, most lawmakers agree that the federal government needs to step up and address the deterioration of our nation’s infrastructure.


Just last year, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 2017 Infrastructure Report Card gave current infrastructure conditions and needs in the U.S. a D+ grade. The report card found that our nation’s crumbling infrastructure is a critical public safety issue with knock-on effects to our nation’s economy, impacting business productivity, gross domestic product (GDP), employment, personal income and international competitiveness.

This is more than just think-tank jargon - ASCE estimates that, between 2016 and 2025, every household in the U.S. will lose $3,400 each year in disposable income due to infrastructure deficiencies. At a time when millions of Americans are one paycheck away from financial ruin, our nation’s failure to act is unacceptable.

And Washington, D.C. agrees. President TrumpDonald John TrumpUS-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' Trump talks to Swedish leader about rapper A$AP Rocky, offers to vouch for his bail Matt Gaetz ahead of Mueller hearing: 'We are going to reelect the president' MORE, in a news conference last month, remarked that Democrats and Republicans “have a lot of things in common on infrastructure" and addressing these needs “could be a beautiful bipartisan type of situation.”

Democrats need to double down on the bipartisan potential for addressing our nation’s infrastructure needs - not only because improvements are severely needed - but also because doing so is America’s best chance of tackling climate change in a divided Washington, D.C.

According to the World Economic Forum, approaching infrastructure in the right way can play a major role in the fight to manage the effects of climate change. As it stands now, the U.S. gets 81 percent of its total energy from fossil fuels. Infrastructure alone accounts for around 60 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions. The U.S. is in dire need of more infrastructure spending, but the way forward must be a departure from the same old polluting and resource-intensive approaches.

Addressing infrastructure by embracing the power of clean energy and green technologies is America’s most viable short-term way to mitigate man-made climate change. We know from the recently published National Climate Assessment (NCA), among other recent reports, that we need to act now in order to avoid the most dire perils of climate change, such as dramatic geographical transformations that would lead to famine, health risks, pre-mature deaths, exorbitant costs to the economy, and worse.

However, we also know from the way in which the NCA was rolled out (i.e. buried on Black Friday by the very same administration that oversees NASA, the Department of Defense, and the 11 other federal scientific agencies who developed the report) that there is little to no bipartisan appetite for taking its warnings seriously, let alone passing legislation to address climate change head on.

Infrastructure policy is the best possible road the 116th Congress can pursue not only to build lasting roads, bridges and more, but also to defend our nation and our planet. In order to be successful, environmentally forward-thinking lawmakers must persuade colleagues and the American people that protecting the environment and incentivizing economic growth are not mutually exclusive goals. Reversing the course we’re on with respect to the effects of climate change is good for business, creates jobs, and improves everyone’s health. A recent study from Stanford scientists states a fossil fuel phase-out is not only achievable worldwide, it would limit global warming 10 1.5 degrees Celsius or less, deliver energy from entirely renewable sources, and eliminate up to 7 million premature deaths per year, while creating a net gain of 24 million long-term jobs, all by 2050.

A comprehensive infrastructure bill can and should apply sustainable economic thinking, not because it’s the environmentally friendly thing to do, but because it’s the smart thing to do. For example, how do we ensure taxpayers’ dollars go to good use, and we don’t end up in a situation down the road where we have to rebuild bridges, roads, airports and more from scratch? If we can pinpoint rates and fees that reflect the true cost of building, using, maintaining, and improving all infrastructure, we can ensure we are investing in infrastructure in a long-term way that guarantees financing for its entire lifespan. Beyond Washington, D.C., we should also consider how we can create incentives for the private sector, and local and state governments, to invest in maintenance.

In every aspect of infrastructure policy, we must prize innovation. That’s how we will turn our nation’s infrastructure needs into an opportunity to create green jobs and protect our environment. This starts with planning for and investing in emerging technologies, such as autonomous vehicles and drones, and funding research and development into innovative new materials and processes that can modernize and extend the life of infrastructure and increase cost savings.  

As ASCE’s report card shows us, the stakes are too high for us to delay action on a comprehensive infrastructure bill any further. And as the NCA shows us, we cannot afford to approach the future of American infrastructure without considering how we might use it as an opportunity to safeguard our nation’s environmental and, in turn, economic future. The way forward is to address these issues together, not separately. As a member-elect of Congress, I believe the 116th Congress has the opportunity to do just that and provide all Americans with a better future.

Harley RoudaHarley Edwin RoudaThe House Democrats who voted to kill impeachment effort House votes to kill impeachment effort against Trump House Dems, Senate GOP build money edge to protect majorities MORE is congressman-elect from California’s 48th District.