While many people across the country celebrated the unofficial start of summer last week, Oklahoma braced for severe weather and faced catastrophic flooding. As I traveled around Northeastern Oklahoma to help communities and meet with emergency management teams, I saw areas devastated. Roads we are used to traveling on a daily basis are not accessible and some have even washed away completely. Families had to evacuate their towns and some even lost their cars, homes, and businesses to the flood.
But in this time of crisis, the Oklahoma Standard is alive and well. Whether it was sandbagging a neighborhood or letting a displaced family stay in your home, neighbors have helped neighbors get through this tough time together. It is inspiring to see so many step up to help those in need.
When the waters start to go down, we will begin the long road of recovery. We will rebuild homes and businesses that were lost and repair damaged roads and bridges. But as we start this process one thing is abundantly clear: we need infrastructure for the 21st century.
A strong, modern infrastructure system is critical, especially when disaster strikes. It provides the necessary transportation paths for families trying to get to safety and for first responders to get to the disaster area for search and rescue. Crumbling roads and bridges put peoples’ lives at risk. We need roads that live up to our demands. As we rebuild the roadways that were washed away or damaged, we should use designs and materials that allow for better water absorption and can withstand the elements.
But it’s not just our roads and bridges that need our attention, it’s also our waterways. During the flooding, dams and levees have been pushed to their limits. Thankfully, they have not failed. But they desperately need maintenance and upgrades in order to withstand this level of use without being compromised. Unfortunately, the timeline for repairs is often years long because of government regulations. It’s time to cut the bureaucratic red tape and make the necessary upgrades in a timely matter to prevent further damage when disaster strikes.
Congress is about to begin a long summer of legislative session and one of the top priorities for President Trump is an infrastructure package. But the only way it gets done is if my colleagues on the other side of the aisle stop playing politics and put the American people first. Our country is desperate for modern infrastructure that meets our needs in the 21st century. I hope that both sides can come together to accomplish this important goal for the good of Oklahoma and the good of our country.
Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) represents the second district in the U.S. House of Representatives. He can be reached through http://mullin.house.gov, and at 3109 Azalea Park Drive, Muskogee, OK, 74401, 918-687-2533 or 202-225-2701