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Reaching across the aisle to fix infrastructure in Pennsylvania and beyond | Opinion

A national infrastructure plan would rebuild and modernize our country for the 21st century, strengthen our economy, build a climate-resilient future, and create hundreds of thousands of good-paying American jobs.

Congestion between the Pennsylvania Turnpike and I-95 cost rush hour drivers 54 additional gallons of gas and $2,301 annually in 2013.
Congestion between the Pennsylvania Turnpike and I-95 cost rush hour drivers 54 additional gallons of gas and $2,301 annually in 2013.Read moreClem Murray / Staff Photographer

As members of Congress from opposing political parties, we’re expected to have plenty of differences. But we’re connected by something very important: our mission to fight for the health, safety, and prosperity of Pennsylvanians. That’s why we are in agreement that, when it comes to our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, it’s time to put aside partisan battles and get things done for the American people.

Our infrastructure is the backbone of our economy. To be clear, infrastructure is more than just roads and bridges. It’s the way Pennsylvanians get to work every day to provide for their families, and the way small businesses thrive. It’s not just a system of pipes; it’s the water our kids drink. More than just an electrical grid; it’s how we power our homes, stay connected to critical services, and safeguard our climate. We need a national infrastructure plan that delivers these basics to Pennsylvanians, while also building the future we owe our children.

Here in Southeast Pennsylvania, we understand the consequences of federal underinvestment in infrastructure all too well. Philadelphia’s commute was recently ranked 20% higher than the national average. Congestion between the Pennsylvania Turnpike and I-95 cost rush hour drivers 54 additional gallons of gas and $2,301 annually in 2013. This congestion destroys our roads, costs each of us more at the pump, harms our air quality, and takes away precious time with loved ones. Our roads and bridges are some of the oldest in the nation, and the Philadelphia area has four of the 10 most deadly stretches of road in Pennsylvania.

As The Inquirer reported, a recent holiday weekend storm overwhelmed the treatment capacity of Philadelphia’s outdated sewer systems, causing raw sewage to flow into rivers and streams that pass through residential neighborhoods. Pennsylvania’s public water systems have also been under threat of contamination from PFAS — “forever chemicals” linked to cancer and other serious health problems.

Thanksgiving will bring families from all over the region to our stretch of Pennsylvania. We owe our residents and visitors the peace of mind that the water they drink and cook with is not contaminated from mismanaged government spending. Improvements to our infrastructure will keep our communities cleaner and let them spend more time together and less time in congestion.

We’ve come together to address the threat in our communities through federal funding, oversight, and regulation. But no American should have to question the safety of their drinking water, and the more we look for PFAS and other contaminants across the country, the more we find.

From Flint, Mich., to Newark, N.J., to collapsing bridges and historic flooding across the country, we can no longer afford to govern from crisis to crisis.

At a moment when deep political division pervades every facet of our lives, infrastructure presents a unique opportunity to bring both sides of the aisle together, put politics aside, and deliver results for the American public. Our national infrastructure needs present a tremendous opportunity to renew America and make Washington work; to build a climate-safe future that empowers students, families, commuters, and businesses. And with a nearly 4-to-1 return on investment, a federal infrastructure plan presents an opportunity that should not go to waste.

We are asking our colleagues in Washington to join us in a call to pass a national infrastructure plan that rebuilds and modernizes our country for the 21st century, strengthens our economy, builds a climate-resilient future, and creates hundreds of thousands of good-paying American jobs. This plan must do more than make our roads and bridges work and keep our water clean, it must create a foundation for the next generation to reimagine what the future of this country looks like. And it must do so transparently, so our constituents know they are getting a return on their investment.

Pennsylvanians understand the need to get something done now that builds a stronger future. According to a recent poll by Build Together, a nonpartisan national infrastructure campaign, 67% of Pennsylvania voters strongly agree that we need to do more than just repair our existing infrastructure; we need to think big about how it serves the next generation. We could not agree more, and we will continue fighting side-by-side until Washington delivers on this overdue promise.

Brian Fitzpatrick is a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Pennsylvania’s 1st Congressional District. Brendan Boyle is a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Pennsylvania’s 2nd Congressional District.