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Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer: bipartisan infrastructure deal an important step toward 'rebuilding and renewing America'

On Straight Talk, Oregon's third district congressman also discussed road safety, climate change, and his efforts to save honeybees from extinction
Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) (C) talks to reporters while announcing the House Democrats' new infrastructure plan during a news conference

PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) has said he has waited his entire congressional career for an opportunity to participate in a sweeping infrastructure plan like the one President Biden has proposed.

Blumenauer was a guest this week on Straight Talk, and applauded Biden's announcement this week that he's reached a bipartisan deal on a pared down version of his American Jobs Plan.

Although many details are still unknown, the price tag for the proposed deal is $1.2 trillion over eight years. The President had wanted more than $2.2 trillion.

"I appreciate the fact President Biden worked with Republicans and Democrats on moving the infrastructure agenda. It's not all we want. It's not all we are going to get," said Blumenauer.  "The bottom line is—there is an opportunity to take unprecedented steps to rebuild and renew America."

Watch the full episode on YouTube:

U.S. House to debate bill including projects for Portland area

The U.S. House of Representatives next week is expected to debate Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio's transportation reauthorization bill. DeFazio chairs the House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

"Peter has done a great job on the bill. It has a number of things I have been working on for years," said Blumenauer.

RELATED: A snapshot of the bipartisan infrastructure agreement

Federal monday for local projects

The reauthorization bill includes millions in federal building to address traffic and pedestrian safety. In early June, Rep. Blumenauer took a walking tour of Gresham's 181st Avenue corridor with Gresham Mayor Travis Stovall. It's one of the most traveled roadways in Multnomah County and in need of critical safety improvements.

Credit: City of Gresham

"We have not done a good job of prioritizing safety. It's a national problem. And these broad roads out in Gresham and East Portland were not designed to be safe," he said. Blumenauer said the victims of fatal crashes involving pedestrians are disproportionately older, people of color and children.

The House reauthorization bill also includes money to improve 82nd Avenue. Blumenauer said that funding could assist efforts already working their way through the Oregon legislature to improve the roadway known as an "orphan highway." 

RELATED: Bill aims to bring Oregon's 'orphan highways' under local control

82nd Avenue, also known as Highway 213, is a state road maintained by ODOT but functions like a city street. In June, ODOT and the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) agreed to a deal transferring ownership to the city.

"(This will help) get down to basics in terms of traffic flow, improving neighborhood quality, and being able to keep our citizens safe," Blumenauer said.

Heat wave: "This is a preview of coming attractions"

Rep. Blumenauer comes home to Portland from Washington, DC every weekend. This weekend, however, obligations are keeping him in the nation's capital where the temperatures are forecast to be in the mid 80's to low 90s. While he won't be in Portland for the unprecedented heat wave, he encouraged citizens to take the heat seriously and stay vigilant.

"The conditions are truly breathtaking," he said. "We need to make sure people stay cool, hydrate, and don't make any mistakes." Blumenauer said it was imperative residents are sensitive to the fire dangers especially in the extreme heat.

"Many of these fires are caused by humans. We can't afford to do that. Our forests are a tinderbox," he said.

Blumenauer said the bout of historic extreme heat could be the new normal.

"Sad to say, this is a preview of coming attractions. This is what climate change means," he said.

National Pollinator Week

National Pollinator Week is June 21 to 27, and Rep. Blumenauer and Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) introduced legislation to protect America's honeybees, bumblebees, hummingbirds, and butterflies.

The lawmakers said the U.S. has lost an estimated one-third of its honeybee colonies between 2016 and 2018. Their legislation would crack down on insecticides that are toxic to pollinators. On Straight Talk, Blumenauer discussed the importance of these pollinators to Oregon's crops.

Straight Talk airs Friday at 7 p.m., Sunday at 6:30 p.m., and Monday at 4:30 a.m.

Straight Talk is also available as podcast.