As Prepared for Delivery
Chairman DeFazio and Ranking Member Graves,
I represent the First District of Virginia, which is home to some of the most unique transportation challenges in the country. The First District spans the I-95 Corridor in Northern Virginia, including the worst traffic hotspot in the nation, all the way down to the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula, which includes the most neglected rural roads and bridges in Virginia.
Furthermore, the National Capital Region is also home to one of the most strained public transit networks in the country, which includes the Virginia Railway Express (VRE), METRO, Amtrak, Ronald Reagan International (DCA) and Dulles International (IAD) Airports. Moreover, the Port of Virginia, which services all 48 contiguous states, faces an urgent need for expansion.
Addressing congestion along the I-95 corridor is essential. I believe the federal government can address those issues by providing adequate resources in order to leverage the state’s investments. Congress must prioritize public-private partnerships and innovative modern-day technologies.
An important component to reducing traffic congestion in Northern Virginia is commuter rail. Long Bridge, which spans the Potomac River between Virginia and DC, is a critical gateway between southeast and northeast rail networks. Constituents in my district rely on services of the VRE and Amtrak to commute throughout DC and Northern Virginia. Owned and operated by CSX, the existing Long Bridge is the only railroad bridge connecting Virginia to DC and is the most significant passenger and freight rail choke point along the entire east coast. Under normal circumstances, the bridge functions at 98% capacity during peak periods, preventing DC, Virginia, and Maryland from increasing passenger and commuter rail service for their communities. Just last month, Virginia and CSX finalized a landmark agreement to expand reliability and service on Virginia’s rail lines, creating a pathway to separate passenger and freight operations along the Richmond to DC corridor. This $3.7 billion investment included building a new Virginia-owned Long Bridge across the Potomac River, with dedicated tracks for passenger and commuter rail. As a requirement for the Long Bridge Project to proceed, Virginia needed to acquire land from the National Park Service. Fortunately, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 included my bill The Long Bridge Act of 2020, which allows the necessary transfer of National Park Service lands for the Long Bridge Project.
The Port of Virginia, one of the largest and busiest ports on the eastern seaboard, urgently needs to deepen, widen, and expand its channels. The Port of Virginia is one of the Commonwealth’s most powerful economic engines. On an annual basis, the Port is responsible for more than 400,000 jobs and $92 billion in spending across our Commonwealth. Furthermore, the Port of Virginia generates more than seven and a half percent of our Gross State Product, but the Port’s true reach extends throughout the Mid-Atlantic and into the Midwest and Ohio Valley. The deepening and widening of Norfolk Harbor will ensure the continued safe and timely passage of larger commercial and military vessels through Norfolk Harbor. Public and private non-federal interests have invested billions of dollars on landside infrastructure and are prepared to provide their cost share to complete this crucial navigation project in a timely manner. In order to remain on schedule, the Norfolk Harbor and Channel Project requires a New Start Designation and robust federal investment to fully fund the Inner Harbor contract and match the non-federal cost share. Federal investment in this project will allow the Port to remain a prominent economic hub for the nation and a key player in domestic and international trade by generating more than $78 million in annual national economic development benefits.
Interstate 64 (I-64) corridor is the lifeline connecting the economic and military hub of Hampton Roads to the rest of the Commonwealth and the world. I-64 is a significant transportation corridor allowing residents to commute daily and providing easy access to tourist attractions throughout the region. The I-64 Peninsula Widening Project in the Hampton Roads area is vital to increase vehicle capacity, resulting in immediate congestion relief along one of the most heavily traveled highways in Virginia. Widening I-64 is essential for increased economic development in the Hampton Roads Region and directly supports the transportation of freight from the Port of Virginia. It is essential for military readiness by providing access to, from, and between military facilities, and is an essential emergency evacuation route during hurricane events affecting southeast Virginia.
As our need for infrastructure increases, so too do the demands for a skilled and capable workforce. Placing more emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) and Career and Technical Education (CTE) is needed to help better prepare our students to meet the demands of our workforce.
Addressing America’s transportation infrastructure is a shared responsibility between federal, state, and local governments.
Chairman DeFazio and Ranking Member Graves, thank you for allowing me to testify before you today. I look forward to working with you and the rest of the committee to improve America’s infrastructure.
Congressman Rob Wittman represents the 1st District of Virginia. He serves on the House Natural Resources Committee and the House Armed Services Committee, where he serves as the Vice Ranking Member of the full Committee and Ranking Member of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee.