Richard Neal isn’t waiting for Donald Trump to act to repair and upgrade U.S. infrastructure.
The Massachusetts Democrat, who this year took over the chair of the key tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, has been meeting with colleagues, union leaders and even some businesses to figure out where to find funds for that objective.
Their aim: Garner enough money, from raising the federal gas tax and elsewhere, to repair crumbling highways, replace broken bridges, upgrade aging subways and airports, modernize the electric grid and install new water lines instead of relying on 100-year-old mains, among other projects.
And the unionists are going to lobby federal lawmakers, Democrats and Republicans, for whatever new funds are needed, several leaders pledged this week.
They won’t have much trouble making their case. On the morning of an outdoor Capitol Hill press conference on the push, May 15, one participant, Rep. Michael Bost, R-Mo., found out that “I-44 westbound in my district” north of St. Louis “was closed when they found a 6-inch crack” in road’s superstructure.
“It’s a safety issue,” the former firefighter added. “How would you like to have your house on fire and have the truck hook up to a hydrant, and the water main serving it breaks?”
Neal’s discussions, with members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and with the 85-member House Labor and Working Families Caucus, come as once again lawmakers prepare to tackle the problems of U.S. infrastructure – problems that are so acute that the American Society of Civil Engineers gives the country a D+ grade on the issue.