Highlighting national Infrastructure Week, Senate and House leaders on Wednesday took to a U.S. Capitol lawn to tout their Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act.
If enacted, the legislation would begin tackling nearly $12 billion in long-deferred maintenance to buildings, roads, bridges and other facilities in America’s national parks.
The Republican and Democrat lawmakers stressed that any infrastructure bill taken up by the Congress this year should include money to reduce the National Park Service’s gigantic maintenance backlog.
Before TV cameras near the east steps to the Senate on Wednesday morning, Sen. Mark R. Warner, D-Va., joined House and Senate colleagues for a press conference that called on Congress to make headway on the parks’ long-overdue maintenance work.
Besides Warner, the group included Rep. Bob Bishop, R-Utah, ranking Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee; Reps. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., and Mike Simpson, R-Idaho; Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Angus King, I-Maine, Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.; and Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C.
Their bipartisan press conference spotlighted growing support for the Restore Our Parks Act, which now has 207 sponsors.
Nearly a quarter of all House members, 92 members of both parties, joined as original cosponsors of the bill.
Warner introduced the bill in the Senate. It would address $1.1 billion in deferred maintenance at national park sites in Virginia. Bishop and Kilmer introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
“Even in a dysfunctional Washington, this should be a no-brainer,” Warner said of the Restore Our Parks Act. “... We’ve got broad bipartisan support in the Senate. We’ve got the support of the administration.”
“This backlog is sacrificing our history and our legacy, and is a direct hit on jobs,” he added.
The Virginia Democrat noted that a few weeks back, a sinkhole threatened motorists commuting on the George Washington Memorial Parkway, a road relied on by many Washington-area travelers.
“The national capital area and America deserve better than a sinkhole on one of America’s premier roads,” the senator said.
If enacted, the Restore Our Parks Act would generate an estimated 10,000 jobs, Warner noted. Over five years, it would provide about $6.5 billion for park repairs.
Of the $12 billion backlog, $700 million is for the George Washington Memorial Parkway in Virginia and D.C., $90 million is for projects in Shenandoah National Park and $500 million is for work on the Blue Ridge Parkway, he said.
“We should get this done,” Warner said. “We should get this done this year.”