U.S. Senators Smith, Baldwin, Rubio Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Help Communities Strengthen Infrastructure

WASHINGTON, D.C. [02/27/20]—Today, U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) introduced bipartisan legislation to ensure federal, state, local and private infrastructure is more resilient to extreme weather events. The Built to Last Act would make it possible for the standards-developing organizations that issue building codes and other standards have the best available information on weather-related risks—including floods and wildfires.

Roads and bridges, water and wastewater systems, government buildings and power lines provide essential services to families and communities, but extreme weather poses a significant risk to vital infrastructure. Last year, the Congressional Budget Office estimated annual economic losses from damage caused by hurricanes and storm-related flooding at $54 billion to households, businesses and government. These costs are oftentimes overwhelming for local communities. Additionally, extreme weather costs the federal government billions of dollars each year because infrastructure constructed and maintained by federal agencies, state and local governments, as well as private entities, may be paid for with federal funds, insured by federal programs, or eligible for federal disaster assistance. The Built to Last Act helps design standards, building codes and voluntary certifications to enhance the resilience of infrastructure and withstand the effects of natural disasters and extreme weather. Standards-developing organizations are the primary source of these standards and codes that public and private planners follow. These organizations often face institutional and technical challenges to using the best available information to create design standards. The bipartisan Built to Last Act would help ensure these organizations are able to use forward-looking information in developing standards to increase infrastructure resilience and save taxpayer dollars.

“Communities in Minnesota don’t have to be told about increasing extreme weather like widespread flooding—they’ve seen it for themselves when they look out onto their rain-soaked fields. We need to invest in infrastructure that can handle the increased threats driven by climate change because by doing so we can create jobs, improve safety, and strengthen our economy,” said Sen. Smith. “Our Built to Last Act will make sure that engineers have the tools they need to plan infrastructure projects that are ready for climate change so that people in Minnesota, and all Americans, can be sure that the roads, bridges and buildings we construct today will still be around tomorrow.”

“In recent years, communities in Wisconsin have been hit particularly hard by severe weather events and flooding that has washed out roads, closed local businesses and damaged highways and bridges,” said Sen. Baldwin. “As severe weather becomes more and more frequent, it’s important we equip states and local communities with the modern information and technical assistance they need to build stronger roads, bridges and facilities that can withstand the next storm or natural disaster. This reform will not only ensure we are better protecting our infrastructure, but it will also save taxpayer dollars.”

“I am proud to join my colleagues in this bipartisan effort to mitigate the challenges and impacts of a changing climate and empower states to plan appropriately,” said Sen. Rubio. “Florida’s public and private building standards are already among the most stringent in the nation, including the requirement to withstand major hurricanes. The Built to Last Act would bolster our preparedness by improving the Federal Government’s capacity to share projections of weather-related risks to our communities and provide guidance for building codes, ensuring that the infrastructure we build in the future is more resilient to weather impacts.” 

The Built to Last Act would:

·Require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to identify a consistent, federal set of best available forward-looking metrological information; and

·Require the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to make that information available to standards-developing organizations, with advice and technical assistance to help ensure organizations are able to incorporate this information into standards, building codes and voluntary certifications. 

This legislation is supported by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Planning Association, Enterprise Community Partners and the National Ready Mix Concrete Association.

You can access more information on the Built to Last Act here.