Transportation and Infrastructure
Norton’s new Subcommittee Leadership Post: A Prime Position to Bring Transportation Benefits to the District
Norton’s new post as the Ranking Member of the Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee’s Highways and Transit Subcommittee will give her and the District a lead seat at the table as the subcommittee drafts a new surface transportation reauthorization bill next year. She now has jurisdiction over Metro, streetcars, buses and other surface transportation in addition to highways, bridges, roads and infrastructure development. To prepare for the surface transportation reauthorization bill, Norton brought in six top industry experts for a dialogue with committee Democrats to increase understanding of the emerging issues surrounding surface transportation throughout the country. As a longtime proponent of protecting the environment, Norton also will use the reauthorization bill to provide for greener transportation and greater use of technology to reduce congestion. In November, she test drove an electric car to learn more about new all-electric transportation technology, which she believes can be the wave of the near-future.
Economic Development Subcommittee Benefits to Continue for D.C.
Norton was able to maintain momentum for her career-long priority on economic development in D.C. by continuing her service as a senior member of the T&I Committee’s Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management. The subcommittee has enabled Norton to develop two new neighborhoods in the District – NoMa and Capitol Riverfront, and to begin the revitalization of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Ward 8, which is already benefitting from the new U.S. Department of Homeland Security complex under construction.
Long-Term Transportation Funding
Norton believes that we cannot address our infrastructure deficit by just continuing to provide baseline levels of funding. In the 113th Congress, Norton introduced, as a courtesy at the request of the Administration, the GROW AMERICA Act (Generating Renewal, Opportunity, and Work with Accelerated Mobility, Efficiency, and Rebuilding of Infrastructure and Communities throughout America Act). The four-year bill is a timely contribution as Congress works towards passage of a long-term surface transportation authorization, and should provide guidance and ideas as Congress develops legislation to set the future course of these vital programs. The GROW AMERICA Act recognizes that America has fallen behind on infrastructure funding, and calls for increasing investments in modernizing the nation’s roads, bridges, railways, and transit systems.
The Congresswoman is committed to a streamlined and congestion-free Union Station. The current traffic pattern at Columbus Circle is relatively new and is based on a ten-year study undertaken by the District of Columbia Department of Transportation (DDOT). Union Station Redevelopment Corporation (USRC) and the developer that oversees the circle have hired additional people to monitor the traffic to ensure vehicles are using the proper lanes, but there is little evidence of their presence or effectiveness. Norton’s office was informed that USRC is also part of a working group with the District of Columbia, the Metropolitan Police Department, Amtrak, and the National Park Service that is looking at ways to produce signage that will aid drivers.
In October 2014, Norton hosted a roundtable, entitled “Solving Traffic Congestion at Union Station and Preparing for a Makeover Inside,” to discuss a plan to resolve traffic congestion, plans for development at Union Station and short-term and long-term goals for improvements. After the roundtable, Norton sent a letter to the panelists -- Bob Vogel, National Park Service (NPS) Superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks, Beverly K. Swaim-Staley, President & CEO of USRC), and Joe Press of Union Station Investco -- asking them to consider a switch in the lanes passenger vehicles are permitted to use to put them closer to Union Station. Norton said it has proved difficult for District of Columbia residents and visitors arriving at Union Station by passenger vehicle to rush out of their vehicles and across multiple lanes of traffic in time to catch buses or trains, given the current lane designations. In her letter, Norton asked that USRC, Union Station Investco, and NPS sit down together and consider an agreement that could achieve a switch in the vehicles permitted in each lane, so that cabs would continue to use the first lane, passenger vehicles the second lane, and tour buses and any additional passenger vehicles would use the third lane.
Norton continues to work with the appropriate agencies to ensure patrons of Union Station have safer and better access to Union Station.
Virginia Avenue Tunnel Project
CSX’s Virginia Avenue Tunnel Project is privately funded, but there are some federal properties that will be impacted by construction necessitating the FHWA and DDOT approvals. Norton has been working closely with the community, and has hosted two community meetings with the surrounding community near Capitol Hill, the FHWA, DDOT, and CSX. A number of residents have raised concerns about the proximity and duration of the proposed tunnel construction, which would run close to their homes. In June 2014, Norton requested that the review period for the project be extended from 30 to 90 days and an additional public meeting on the Final Environmental Impact Statement. FHWA agreed to extend the review period to 60 days, and a second public meeting took place on July 31, 2014. She also attended a July 2014 public meeting, the first of two on the Final EIS, hosted by FHWA, DDOT and CSX. In August, she sent a letter to Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Acting Administrator Gregory G. Nadeau urging the FHWA to delay the issuance of the CSX Virginia Avenue Tunnel Project’s Record of Decision (ROD) until September 15, 2014, to allow oversight of the District of Columbia Department of Transportation (DDOT) by the D.C. Council, which has requested more time to do so. The ROD was delayed, as Norton requested.