U.S. Senator Ben Cardin

Letters From Ben

November 19. 2022

Laying the Foundation

Dear Fellow Marylanders,

Let’s talk about infrastructure. I know, it sounds a bit wonky, but hear me out. Infrastructure is everything all around us. We all use it every day, often without thinking about it. Infrastructure is roads; bridges; tunnels; high-speed internet for schools, homes and offices; pipes that deliver clean water to your home and take away wastewater; local transit and more. Maryland families, business and communities rely on quality infrastructure.

This past week, we celebrated the one-year anniversary of President Joe Biden signing into law the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. This often is referred to as the bipartisan infrastructure law, because it was one of those special times this Congress when Democrats and Republicans worked together on important investments for our country.

I’m pretty proud of this new law and what it means for Maryland. Since I arrived in the Senate, I’ve been a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee and I currently chair its Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Our committee, and my subcommittee especially, crafted key components of the bipartisan infrastructure law that authorize federal funding for transportation and water infrastructure programs. We advanced these pieces of legislation on a unanimous, bipartisan basis. The consensus work of our committee laid important groundwork for passing the entire bipartisan infrastructure bill and sending it to the president’s desk to become law.

For decades, gridlock was more than a traffic pattern and our nation’s infrastructure suffered from underinvestment. We watched as other countries around the world made bold investments in their transportation, energy, water, and communications systems—investments that brought tangible improvements to their quality of life, strengthened their economic competitiveness, and created new opportunities for work, innovation and growth. Here in America, we remained stuck. Planners and engineers gave us a middling ‘C-’ grade on our infrastructure report card and we had no clear path to do better.

Now, with the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, we are moving forward once again. The leadership of the Biden-Harris administration, in its first year in office, brought us together across party lines and pushed us to move quickly from consensus to action. At last, we have begun to make generational investments again and build the infrastructure we need here in Maryland and across America.

Over the past year, we have begun to see key projects take shape. For example:

  • For 2022 and 2023, the Federal Highway Administration sent Maryland $1.6 billion in formula funding that the state can put to work building or maintaining our roadways, improving safety, and expanding public transportation.
  • Maryland received $176 million in new federal formula funding targeting bridge repair and replacement. With $409 million in formal funding expected over five years, and additional competitive grants that the state can seek, Maryland can get to work on more than 270 bridges statewide that are in poor condition.
  • The RAISE grant program, equipped with expanded funding under the infrastructure law, will enable the transformation of two transportation hubs in Maryland—Baltimore Penn Station and the New Carrollton Station in Prince George’s County—upgrading them to perform better as points of connection for pedestrians, bicyclists, drivers, and transit passengers.
  • Construction is finally starting on the Mid-Chesapeake Bay Island Ecosystem Restoration Project, which will rebuild habitat for Chesapeake Bay wildlife while supporting the Port of Baltimore’s role as a hub for global commerce. After more than a decade of planning, design, and waiting, this project is finally moving forward, thanks to new funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
  • The infrastructure law calls on all states to develop and submit plans for electric vehicle charging infrastructure, supercharging the shift to clean energy vehicles. Maryland’s plan has been reviewed and approved by the federal government’s new Joint Office of Energy & Transportation, so our state is now eligible to receive funding under the new National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure formula program. We received $9.3 million in the first year of the program. Maryland counties and cities also received awards under the Low and No Emissions Bus Grants program to upgrade bus fleets with cleaner vehicles.

These are just some of the ways the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is starting to deliver for Maryland. But remember, infrastructure takes time. Structures like bridges need to last. Infrastructure projects require more than a financial investment. They also require thoughtful planning, public engagement and input from local communities. This point was a key takeaway from the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee hearing I chaired this week to mark the one-year anniversary of the bipartisan infrastructure law. My Senate colleagues and I heard from a panel of local government officials – including Mayor Jacob Day of Salisbury – who shared their perspectives on the law and local infrastructure successes and challenges.

What developed at the hearing was a clear picture of how the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is truly enabling more active engagement from municipalities like Salisbury as full partners with the federal government in our infrastructure efforts. This engagement and local expertise is crucial. While state-level departments of transportation will continue to play an important role in prioritizing and implementing projects, local officials understand their communities, are closer to their constituents and have specific ideas on what infrastructure investments can improve their quality of life.

One example: the bipartisan infrastructure law is creating new opportunities for local governments through $7.2 billion funding for the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP), a program that I worked to establish with former Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) years ago. The TAP directs a set-aside of federal formula funds to priority projects in local communities – projects like sidewalks, bike paths, and safety improvements that make it easier for people to get around their neighborhoods.

Local leaders also know the painful history of past transportation projects—projects like the Franklin-Mulberry Corridor that cut through neighborhoods and isolated communities. I am proud that the new Reconnecting Communities Program is dedicating new federal resources to planning and construction of projects in Baltimore and nationwide that help communities heal from this legacy with the infrastructure of connectivity, not exclusion.

After one year, we see how the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is moving us forward as a state and nation. We are investing in our future while taking on the challenges of today, including safety, equity and climate change. I am excited about the possibilities it will unlock for the future.

Thank you for your time. Please feel free to reply to this email with your thoughts or use my website to submit your comments on this or any other issue.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Ben Cardin