Underwood Addresses 14th District’s Infrastructure Needs Before Transportation Committee

May 1, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (IL-14) spoke before the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure to highlight needed infrastructure improvements in the 14th District of Illinois. From fire station improvements in St. Charles to lead pipe replacements in Elburn, Underwood underscored the need for increased federal funding to restore roads, improve broadband access, expand mass transit, and improve community health across the country.

“In Congress, we know that infrastructure can be a smart investment that pays off. As the new majority considers enacting a 21st-century infrastructure package, we need to make sure small- and mid-size towns like those in my District are represented. It’s time we invest in a broad and bold infrastructure plan that is inclusive of smaller communities and reaches beyond roads and bridges to build new projects while maintaining existing infrastructure,” said Congresswoman Underwood.

Full video of Underwood’s remarks can be found here and a transcript can be found below.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for providing this opportunity for non-committee Members to share their priorities with the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. I am thrilled that the new Democratic majority in the House is approaching infrastructure with the serious, big-picture thinking it deserves.

I’m encouraged by the bipartisan meeting that was held at the White House yesterday, and truly hope that Congress and the White House can work together to enact a package this Congress that invests in 21st-century infrastructure for America. I’m a freshman Member of this body, and I represent my home, Illinois’s 14th District. As a freshman, one of my first initiatives in Congress when I learned about your plans for an infrastructure package was to proactively reach out to my constituents to see what they need. Let me tell you what we heard: St. Charles, Illinois, needs 500,000 dollars to improve a local fire station. Elburn, Illinois. needs 1.3 million dollars to replace lead pipes in many of the village’s homes, so that drinking water is free from lead and other contaminants. Yorkville, Illinois. needs 400,000 dollars to refurbish a widely-used outdoor recreation facility in the Kendall County Forest Preserve. You see, people in my district aren’t thinking in the trillions. But for some of them, they might as well be. Because when we examined the details of these requests, we found that so many of them didn’t have options for help from the federal government within existing funding streams. So that’s my first point: this package truly needs to be big-picture when it comes to distributing the resources it includes.  We need to make sure that the needs of small- and mid-size towns in America are represented in this package, not just the big guys.

Next, this package needs to be big-picture in how it defines “infrastructure.” Rail and surface transportation is important. Expanding Metra mass transit service to the Chicago suburbs is one of the top priorities for economic and cultural grown in my district. We need new transit stops and we need new transit lines. Right now, Kendall County is growing faster than any other county in Illinois. But Metra rail service doesn’t go to Montgomery, Oswego, Yorkville, Plano, or Sandwich. Students at Northern Illinois University don’t have easy transit access to Chicago for internships or other career opportunities. Our state absolutely has a role to play here, in funding and development. But we are a huge player in the national economy, we pay federal taxes, and we need a strong partner in the federal government. 

In addition to new mass transit, we need better roads. I was in McCollum Lake a few weeks ago and heard firsthand how the bad conditions of the roads affect road safety and the local economy. But as we create this once-in-a-lifetime, agenda-setting package, “infrastructure” needs to mean all that—roads, rail—and much, much more. In McHenry County, “infrastructure” means rural broadband access—including new metrics that better address exactly which areas are still pretty much on dial-up.  In Batavia, “infrastructure” means building the Fox River bike path to reduce traffic and help people in our community lead healthier lives. In Naperville, “infrastructure” means investing in our school facilities so that our kids get the absolute best public education we can offer them. We need to build new projects and fix and maintain old ones. Now, I’m a nurse, and I can tell you that preventative care is always preferable to triage.

Continuing to put off maintenance of our existing infrastructure isn’t just dangerous, it’s way too expensive. These upgrades need to be made, and as you all know, they’re never again going to be cheaper than they are today. Will all of this be a serious investment? Of course. Because we should be paying for quality American workers and quality American jobs. We know that infrastructure can be a smart investment that pays off. That’s our job in Congress: to make smart investments in roads, transit, schools, technology, clean energy, that power our economy and keep our country a world leader.

That’s our job, and I’m ready to get to work. Thank you all again for having me – I’m looking together to working with all of you to bring America’s infrastructure into the future.