Tester Pushes to Prioritize Infrastructure in Rural Montana as Congress Considers Infrastructure Investments

Senator: “We need to rethink rural infrastructure investment and not push for one-size-fits-all regulations”

As part of his continued efforts to ensure that rural states like Montana are getting the resources they need to develop and maintain roads, bridges, and train tracks, U.S. Senator Jon Tester stressed the need for Congress to make critical investments in rural transportation infrastructure at a recent Senate Banking Committee hearing.

While questioning Beth Osborne, Executive Director of Transportation for America, Tester pointed out that one-size-fits-all infrastructure policies-typically developed with America’s urban areas in mind-often fail to benefit rural communities because of their unique infrastructure needs and large lengths of distance between towns. He stressed the need for Congress to invest directly into rural infrastructure projects and address the critical need for maintenance that has been deferred for decades.

“Too often, transit solutions developed for urban environments are used ineffectively to address rural transportation needs-it doesn’t work, and puts a square peg in a round hole,” said Tester. “That’s why I think we need to rethink rural infrastructure investment and not push for one-size-fits-all regulations. In your estimation, Ms. Osbourne, is Congress doing enough to consider and support the unique transportation needs of rural America, where distance is a real challenge”

“I think we certainly need to do a lot more,” replied Ms. Osborne.

Infrastructure in Montana has lacked significant investment for decades. Currently there are 377 bridges and more than 1,485 miles of highway in poor condition, resulting in motorists spending an average of $472 per year in costs associated with driving on roads in need of repair. Additionally, Montanans who take public transportation spend an extra 78.2 percent of their time commuting, with 27 percent of trains and other transit vehicles in the state being past their useful life.

Tester has been fighting alongside rural Montana communities to make significant improvements to the state’s infrastructure. He was the only member of Montana’s congressional delegation to vote for $340 million in direct, targeted funding for Montana cities, towns, and counties as part of the American Rescue Plan that can be used to fund rural infrastructure projects. In the same bill, he successfully restored full Amtrak service to Montana’s Hi-Line and reinstated furloughed employees. He also recently introduced two bipartisan bills, including his Right Track Act, which will improve safety at rural train crossings and address instances of blocked highway-railroad crossings.

Watch Tester in today’s Senate Banking Committee hearing HERE.