Merkley, Wyden Announce Significant Infrastructure Investments in Spending Package

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden today announced that major investments in community infrastructure—ranging from roads and bridges to rural broadband—are included in the 2019 package of spending bills that have been passed by Congress and signed by the president. The infrastructure bill includes significant funding for rural water and wastewater infrastructure, capital infrastructure projects, and more.

“Congress voted to release the hostages, and fund one of the top priorities for Oregonians—infrastructure,” Merkley said. “These bipartisan spending bills include a significant increase in funding for rural water and wastewater infrastructure, which is one of the top issues I hear from small communities across Oregon. And, with more than $2.5 billion in funding, the legislation supports new roads, bridges and rail lines in both urban and rural Oregon.”

“One of the top frustrations I have heard consistently from Oregonians in town halls and grocery store checkout lines is that recent uncertainty over government funding leaves key infrastructure needs in their communities to languish,” Wyden said. “I am glad Congress has finally passed the bipartisan spending so Oregon can build capacity for rural broadband, invest in mass transit and make needed improvements in roads, rail and smaller airports.”

Merkley is the only Oregon member of Congress from either chamber since Senator Mark Hatfield to serve on the Appropriations Committee, considered to be one of the most powerful on Capitol Hill. He joined the committee in 2013 so that Oregon would have a strong voice in decisions about the investments our nation should be making.

The 2019 spending bill includes an additional projected $41 million in transportation grants for Oregon across the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration. Other key transportation appropriations that will impact Oregon include:

Rural Broadband: The program received an additional $550 million investment for 2019. This investment builds on the previous fiscal year’s investment of $600 million. Together, Congress has provided $1.15 billion in budget authority for grants and loans to expand broadband in rural areas without sufficient access or service. It is anticipated that the funding level in the spending bill will leverage billions more in grants and loans.

Rural Water and Waste Disposal Systems: The subsidies and grants program received an additional $548.7 million in budget authority for 2019, building on last fiscal year’s investment of $600 million. The program has also received approximately $1.45 billion in additional budget authority to support loans for clean water and sanitary waste disposal systems in rural communities. Nearly $2 billion in loans and grants are provided, which will assist over 4.2 million rural residents.

Capital Investment Grant Programs: The program received more than $2.5 billion for grants that fund major transit capital investments, including heavy rail, commuter rail, light rail, streetcars, and bus rapid transit, such as the Emerald Express line in Eugene and the Milwaukie light rail in Portland.

Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act: The program, which Merkley created, received $68 million. That investment can be leveraged as loans into another $7 billion to accelerate investment in the nation’s water infrastructure by providing long-term, low-cost supplemental loans for significant projects.

BUILD Grants: The popular program, formerly known as TIGER grants and widely used by Oregon cities and counties, received $900 million. Half of that finding is dedicated to projects in rural areas. Almost $2 billion in new infrastructure grants have been added over the last two years, providing investments in roads, railways, transit systems, airports, and ports to improve the transportation infrastructure and economy of the United States.

Essential Air Service and Contract Towers: The Essential Air Service program received more than $300 million to guarantee that small communities can be served by commercial air services, such as the airport in Pendleton. Additionally, the bill funds FAA Contract Towers at $168 million. There are six contract towers throughout Oregon, and the funding ensures their continued operation in the coming year.

Transit Improvement Grants: The program received $9.93 billion, including a $350 million increase for Bus and Bus Facilities Grants to help transit agencies purchase new buses and replace aging fleets, in particular transitioning to new low- or no-emission vehicles. Transit agencies in Oregon cities, including Eugene, Salem and Portland, are leading on this transition.

FAST Act: The bill funds key rail programs authorized under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, including $780 million over the last two fiscal years for Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement grants, and $400 million for Partnership for State of Good Repair, which supports capital investment and maintenance projects for Amtrak routes.