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For the top transportation decision-makers on Capitol Hill up for re-election, a majority of voters responded favorably to their campaigns, sending them back to Washington to work on an agenda that includes an update of the country’s highway and infrastructure policies.
In Maine, incumbent Sen. Susan Collins, the chamber’s transportation funding leader, earned a fifth term to serve. Election watchers cited support from a coalition of conservative and moderate voters, as well as backing from various industries for her success.
Collins fought off a challenge from the state Speaker of the House Sara Gideon, a Democrat who criticized the incumbent’s voting record during President Donald Trump’s tenure. With nearly all of the votes reported, Collins recorded 51.1% of the outcome with Gideon receiving 42.3%.
In the next session of Congress, Collins likely will remain the top member of the powerful Appropriations Committee managing the funding affairs for federal transportation accounts. In that role, she has advocated for greater funding for infrastructure and freight grants for urban and rural corridors, national use of electronic logging devices in trucks, and hours of service reform for commercial drivers.
“What an extraordinary honor it is to represent the great state of Maine and to know that I will have the opportunity to serve all of Maine for the next six years,” Collins told supporters Nov. 4. “I will serve you with all my heart. I will work hard for you, each and every day and together we will come together to work on the problems and challenges that are facing our state and our country. I am so honored to have that responsibility.”
American Trucking Associations is among the freight groups supportive of the senator’s contributions to the industry, as well as transportation policy. During her career, Collins built a reputation as a capable policymaker with a track record of legislating with members from either party.
“Sen. Collins has been a tireless champion for the state of Maine, the trucking industry, safer roads and the transportation infrastructure needs of our country. We need more leaders like her in Congress — legislators who know the value of compromise and how to get the job done,” ATA President Chris Spear told Transport Topics after the elections. “She earned this victory with the basic American values we treasure: hard work, serving others and being willing to work constructively to solve problems. Her sound victory and return to the Senate is a win for America, and we look forward to working with her in many years to come.”
In Collins’ victory, the Republican leadership gained better footing in their effort to retain control of the chamber, which would pave the way for Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell — re-elected for another term — to again serve as his party’s leader. Control of the Senate remained uncertain as of TT’s press time. Officials had yet to declare winners in North Carolina, Georgia and Alaska.
In the Democratic column, Sen. Gary Peters, a member of the Commerce Committee that handles trucking policy, was re-elected in Michigan. And former Gov. John Hickenlooper defeated incumbent Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, also on the Commerce Committee, in Colorado. Peters has indicated he would continue to advocate for advancing self-driving vehicle legislation in his role on the Commerce panel, while Hickenlooper has promised to tackle concerns due to climate change to whichever committee he is assigned. Hickenlooper told voters after his election contest: “I pledge to you I will work my heart out for this state that I love.”
On the House side, Democrats have held onto their leadership of the chamber for the next two years, raising the probability the caucus would reappoint Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to the speakership. The re-election of Rep. Peter DeFazio in Oregon’s Fourth District also enhances the chances of him remaining chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The top Republican on the panel, Rep. Sam Graves of Missouri, easily won re-election.
Next year, Congress is poised to proceed with a bipartisan drive to reform the country’s highway and infrastructure laws. House and Senate transportation policymakers are expected to reauthorize the 2015 highway law known as the FAST Act with an emphasis on climate change and the environmental permitting regulatory landscape.
In this episode, host Michael Freeze takes a look at the surprising ways trucking companies are building strong, resilient cultures and attracting talent that stays. Hear a snippet, above, and get the full program by going to RoadSigns.TTNews.com.
Support from the White House is expected in passage of transportation measures. Transportation observers, such as Jeff Davis of the Eno Center for Transportation, told TT recently that it is very unlikely Congress would consider a highway policy measure prior to the start of the new congressional session in January.
For stakeholders pressing for significant outcomes in the infrastructure legislative process, the return of familiar transportation leaders to Capitol Hill is reassuring.
Ed Mortimer, vice president of transportation infrastructure at the U.S. Chamber Of Commerce, observed: “The [U.S.] Chamber is glad that transportation infrastructure leaders, such as Sen. Collins and Rep. DeFazio, are coming back to Capitol Hill. And we look forward to working with them and many others in gaining bipartisan solutions.”
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