Time to Act on Transportation Reauthorization
Nobody knows better than Third District residents the great need to improve our streets, highways, and public transportation. Traffic is worse than ever, delays are longer, and reliability is sinking.
The congestion our country faces costs individuals and businesses an estimated $100 billion in wasted time and gasoline every year. That’s time that could be spent with family and friends, and money that could help create jobs at a time when more than 24 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed.
For almost three years, I’ve been saying that passing a new transportation funding bill should be a “no-brainer” for Washington. After all, the last long-term bill expired more than two years ago, and a new bill would put hundreds of thousands of people to work building critical projects that will cut down on congestion, increase safety, and boost long-term economic growth. Unfortunately, Washington has once again failed the American people.
Ordinarily, Congress passes a transportation “reauthorization” bill every four to six years to invest in our nation’s roads, highways, bridges, and mass transit. Although the last bill expired on Sept. 30, 2009, partisan squabbling and a lack of leadership in Washington have repeatedly derailed reauthorization. A short-term, one-time stimulus is not the solution to this problem. Instead, Congress must step up, quit playing partisan political games, and address the need for a long-term bill that modernizes our transportation system and keeps America competitive in the global economy.
In recent weeks, more and more of my colleagues have finally come around to my position. In fact, I now believe we have a golden opportunity to pass the kind of transportation reauthorization legislation that I have long advocated.
Last Thursday, two days after I sent him a letter urging action, House Speaker John Boehner announced he would introduce transportation reauthorization legislation in a matter of weeks. This is a welcome development. So is House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica’s call to make a transportation reauthorization the GOP’s “primary jobs bill.” Of course, Democrats on the House Transportation Committee have been pushing for a long-term reauthorization since I joined with my colleagues on the Highways and Transit Subcommittee to pass a six-year bill in June 2009.
There is good news on the Senate side as well. With the Senate having dispensed with President Obama’s infrastructure stimulus and a Republican alternative last week, the focus there now shifts to bipartisan legislation developed by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
What is most important now is that Congress and the President capitalize on the strong bipartisan support for passing a transportation reauthorization that can make a real difference for the American people. While the delays we face on our streets and highways are fearsome, the biggest chokepoint in America today is Washington. It’s time to break the political gridlock to get our economy moving once again.
A transportation reauthorization bill stands head and shoulders above alternative job-creation proposals because it offers an unparalleled combination of short-term and long-term benefits. In the short term, it will put hundreds of thousands of people to work. Every $1 billion invested in transportation creates or supports nearly 28,000 jobs, according to the Federal Highway Administration. And long after the projects it invests in are completed, businesses, workers, and our economy as a whole will benefit from shorter and safer travel.
To invest in modernizing America’s aging and ailing transportation system is to invest in the future of our country. It is exactly the sort of far-sighted, common-sense action that the American people expect but have not gotten. Indeed, it is hard to imagine that at any time prior to the present, Washington could have failed to pass a major, job-creating transportation reauthorization bill for more than two years when faced with unemployment over 9 percent.
The time to act is now.