In its fourth day of virtual sessions during the United States Conference of Mayors’ 88th Annual Meeting, the Transportation and Communications Committee convened Thursday to discuss critical infrastructure issues facing American cities, especially those challenges related to COVID-19. The panel, chaired by Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere, debated several resolutions that will help inform the Conference’s infrastructure investments and reform agenda for the coming year.
Many of the long-standing economic and racial disparities around broadband Internet access were brought to bear as a result of the pandemic, and today, a group of mayors debated two resolutions focused on promoting digital equity and preserving public rights-of-way at the local level to deploy 5G broadband access. Led by Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin and Eugene Mayor Lucy K. Vinis respectively, both adopted resolutions call on Congress to bolster federal efforts to address these issues, recognizing the increased importance of universal broadband access for education, health, and business during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Committee also debated federal infrastructure investment, especially during this time of COVID-19, and worked to merge two resolutions to provide a united front on how our federal leaders can best aid our cities.
There are structurally deficient bridges in every state in America, and according to the Association of Road and Bridge Transportation Builders Association, there are more than 178 million crossings on structurally deficient bridges every day. This poses a major threat to public safety and the economy, and today, mayors called for more Congressional action in the newly merged resolution. Originally led by Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan, mayors want Congress to include significant, dedicated investment in bridges as a core part of any surface transportation reauthorization or infrastructure package.
Now more than ever, mayors are also committed to addressing the insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund well before the September 30 deadline as the pandemic has disrupted existing transportation networks and facilities, ongoing projects, and investment programs. While the pandemic has caused unprecedented declines in transit and automobile use, mayors have taken the lead in reexamining existing transportation investment programs and strategies to ensure the transportation infrastructure of tomorrow can support the safe movement of people and goods, even as cities move beyond mitigation to recovery from the pandemic.
Additionally, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti originally led a resolution commending more federal infrastructure investment to help local communities experiencing the devasting economic impacts from the public health crisis. The merged resolution supports federal action to secure already-in-place local infrastructure programs threatened by declining sales tax and other revenues, create middle-class infrastructure careers, and to empower local governments in advancing these actions.
With the Committee’s approval, these resolutions will now be considered by the Executive Committee of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and those that pass will become official Conference policy for the next year.