November 13, 2021
Dear Fellow Marylanders:
President Joe Biden was back in Baltimore this week. He was at our Port to celebrate the Bipartisan Infrastructure and Jobs Act that passed the House of Representatives last week and is set to be signed into law Monday. As Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure, I am proud to have contributed to crafting this critical legislation.
One of the oldest ports in the United States, the Port of Baltimore also is one of the busiest. Handling more than 30 million tons of cargo annually, it is an economic engine for our region and the nation, supporting more than 15,300 direct jobs and an additional 139,000 jobs elsewhere in the state. It handles more auto, farm and construction equipment than any other port in the country.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure and Jobs Act will invest more than $17 billion to upgrade ports nationwide, helping move products more efficiently and prevent supply chain disruptions, all of which will create jobs and build a more competitive economy.
You may have heard about the difficulties our supply chains are facing right now. Even if you haven’t read any news about these “supply chain disruptions”, perhaps you’ve had some firsthand experience: that lamp for your home office or cell phone you ordered online is taking much longer to arrive, or the paper supplies you need seem to be sold out and just not available right now. Our supply chains are not moving goods as fast and efficiently as people want or expect, and that’s been a drag on both businesses and families.
There are actions to take to improve this situation in the short term. In Baltimore, President Biden mentioned that former Maryland Transportation Secretary John Porcari, now serving as the president’s Port Envoy, is working with “shipping companies and unions and retailers to speed commerce so they can get products to stores and to your doors, and to get the shelves fully stocked this holiday season. Instead of pointing fingers, we’re seeing folks start to work together: railroads, ocean liners, labor, state and local governments.”
Much of what we need to do to build and upgrade our supply chain infrastructure will take time, investment, ingenuity, and work—exactly the kind of challenge that the Port of Baltimore is eager to take on, and indeed has been taking on as best it can.
The Port has been engaged in a multi-year effort to expand its capacity to move more goods quickly and efficiently. In doing so, they are helping to improve our economic competitiveness while supporting thousands of local jobs. I’ve been proud to work with the Port of Baltimore as a strong advocate for federal funding to support the infrastructure improvements and upgrades they are pursuing.
We will soon break ground on a project to enable freight trains with double-stacked containers to enter and exit the Port. Right now, trains can only stack freight one container high, because they would not otherwise fit through the Howard Street Tunnel, a structure built in the 1890s. (Yes, we’ve waited so long to address our infrastructure that in some cases, we’re still relying on infrastructure more than a century old.) This added capacity will dramatically increase the volume of goods the Port is able to move off ships in a given time and send on their way to destinations around the country.
For years, I have been advocating for federal support for this project, which is of vital importance to Baltimore, to Maryland, and to our national economy. When the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced a grant award of $125 million to move the Howard Street Tunnel project forward, it was the first award from DOT’s INFRA program that Maryland had ever received.
But here’s why the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act matters this year. The Howard Street Tunnel project is one example of an infrastructure project that will help our economy and create jobs, but there are many other important projects around Maryland, even others at the Port that need to move forward.
For too long, we have had a backlog of infrastructure needs and not enough federal investment. According to the White House, Maryland has 273 bridges and more than 2,200 miles of highway in poor condition. In addition, more than 1 in every 5 public transit vehicles are “past useful life,” and more than half a million Maryland homes lack reliable broadband.
Projects that could improve our quality life and our economic competitiveness have waited in the wings, stuck on the drawing board. Now, with the passage and enactment of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, we will truly be able to take on the backlog of infrastructure improvements that have been on hold.
This legislative package provides critical federal investments and commitments to bring about the transformative change we need – from the Port of Baltimore to your doorstep. It should deliver to Maryland at least $4.1 billion in federal funds for our highways, $409 million for bridges, $1.7 billion towards public transportation options, and $100 million to help provide broadband coverage statewide. We will invest $8 billion through the INFRA program from 2022 to 2026. These are some examples of the historic investments we will make in America’s infrastructure, including our roads, railways, airports, energy, water, broadband, and much more.
Why is all this necessary? As President Biden said, “It’s about taking a long-term view of our economy to deliver lower costs, more jobs, and ensure our shelves are stocked with product … the longer-term view means building greater resilience to withstand both the shocks and disruptions we can anticipate as the world continues to change: pandemics, weather extremes, cyberattacks, or whatever else comes our way.” Building a stronger economy with updated, modernized infrastructure means expanding opportunities and improving the quality of life for all Americans.
To enact President Biden’s full Build Back Better agenda that will invest in working families and communities in Maryland and nationwide – without raising taxes on anyone making less than $400,000 – we also need to pass legislation pending in Congress.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure and Jobs Act is a big deal for Maryland. Coupled with the pending Build Back Better budget, we will have an historic opportunity to build back a stronger, more competitive and inclusive economy, to lift up communities, and expand opportunity while facing the challenge of climate change head-on. We are on the cusp of truly transformative change, and I am excited for what lies ahead.
Earlier this year, I had the privilege of joining Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg at the Port of Baltimore to highlight the importance of making bold, new investments in our nation’s infrastructure as part of President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda. I cannot wait for Monday, when I will join President Biden and many of my colleagues at the White House to witness the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed it into law.
I’m biased of course, but I think President Biden chose a great place to go on Wednesday to herald the enactment of this important legislation. We’re not just talking—we’re taking action.
Thank you for your time. Be safe. Get your COVID-19 and flu vaccines if you have not yet done so.