Repairing Our Infrastructure
In Congress, one of my top priorities has been to repair our infrastructure. Unfortunately, in our community, state and nation, much of our infrastructure is in need of additional support. Our roads, overpasses, and bridges are essential to the Long Island economy, way of life and safety, and as a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I have been working on a bipartisan basis to ensure that states and local governments have the flexibility and resources necessary to strengthen our infrastructure and improve transportation safety, job creation, and our overall economy and quality of life.
Congress acted at the end of last year, after ten years of short term extensions, and passed a fully funded, five-year highway bill to provide critical long-term funding and certainty that allows for the planning of projects months and years into the future, as well as creating jobs for our transit workers, construction trades, and contractors. Included in the highway bill that passed the House and was signed into law was my bipartisan proposal, the Safe Bridges Act (H.R. 3168), that provides counties and municipalities with the funds needed to fix our region’s bridges and infrastructure by reforming federal highway law to make Long Island overpasses and bridges once again eligible for funding. The Safe Bridges Act restores eligibility for critical federal funding for over 80 bridges and overpasses across the First Congressional District, and one of my top priorities this year has been to secure funding improvements for Long Island overpasses and bridges that were made eligible as a result of the Safe Bridges Act. Within the highway bill, I also fought to protect the Transportation Alternatives/Safe Routes to School program, which provides $835 million in funding to fix dangerous cracks in sidewalks, inadequate lighting, unsafe intersections, and to improve LIRR stations and walk-ability in Long Island’s downtowns, which is key to revitalizing the Long Island and tri-state area economy. Overall, the highway and transit bill was one of the most significant bipartisan victories of the 114th Congress, strongly increasing flexibility for states and increasing transportation funding to local governments to restore our infrastructure from the bottom up.
Since my first day in Congress 18 months ago, I’ve also been focused on breaking ground on new infrastructure improvement projects to strengthen our barrier beaches and waterways working with the Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps just released their Draft General Reevaluation Report (GRR), which determines what projects will be included in the next phase of the Fire Island to Montauk Point (FIMP) Project, and contains $1.16 billion in funding for essential dredging and shoreline projects. When I came into office, this project was just over half as large as it is now. The plan also includes a variety of coastal and wetland restoration projects that will use the natural environment to reduce flooding, erosion, and storm damage, while also preserving the natural environment and habitat for wildlife. I have been fighting hard to secure the many victories coming to our area as a result of the draft GRR and will continue working to ensure that we witness a massive investment of our federal tax dollars being returned to our congressional district in a way never witnessed before.
To protect our infrastructure and the safety of our roads, we must have sensible policies. Local control is key and a one-size fits all approach doesn’t work for every American community—that is why I fought against a controversial proposal that would have rerouted thousands of trucks from I-95 in Connecticut to our rural North Fork roads through the Cross Sound Ferry. Working directly with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD), as well as our local community, this misguided trucking proposal was permanently removed from both the regional and federal transportation plans. While passenger ferries are an important part of the Long Island transportation and tourism economy, this particular plan was ill advised, as it obviously failed to properly assess the North Fork's road system, which is not equipped for the additional truck traffic, and was contrary to the goals of America’s Marine Highways. I also helped lead the effort in the House with a bipartisan coalition to defeat a proposal allowing longer and heavier trucks on our local roads, protecting our infrastructure and strengthening public safety.
Ensuring New York’s transportation and infrastructure systems are strong for the millions who depend on it is a top priority and I will continue to lead the effort in the House to address our local transportation and infrastructure needs.
Congressman Lee Zeldin, member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, represents the First Congressional District of New York.