The following post is from Rob McCulloch, Senior Policy and Legislative Advocate for the BlueGreen Alliance.
Seven years since the last bill was passed, Congress convened a conference this week to finally reboot federal transportation policy.
The conference, comprised of House and Senate members focused on infrastructure issues, will hopefully hammer out a bill ready for the President’s signature in the coming weeks. The action could not come sooner, as the last bill expired nearly three years ago and status quo on infrastructure investment has hobbled along only through a series of 10 short-term extensions.
The transportation bill, which funds all federal programs to repair and upgrade roads, fix our tunnels and bridges, and support our transit systems, could be the biggest jobs bill passed by this Congress. The Senate has already gotten its ducks in a row, passing an overwhelmingly bipartisan, fully funded two-year bill last month. More than 1.8 million jobs stand to be created by advancing the Senate bill, especially in critical sectors like construction and manufacturing.
To compete effectively in a global economy, we need a 21st century transportation system, not a 20th century one. The overall state of our infrastructure is rated a ‘D’ by the American Society of Civil Engineers, Right now, Europe and China spend two and three times, respectively, their proportion of Gross Domestic Product on infrastructure, compared to the United States.
As the U.S. economy gets back on track (literally), we also can’t afford to let slide an opportunity to generate significant employment by getting our transportation network up to par. Already, Europe and Asia are beating America hands down in deploying advanced transportation technology, such as high-speed rail, transit, and more efficient freight systems. As we’ve demonstrated through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, investing in transportation can create jobs and reposition our industries, such as the auto sector, back in the driver’s seat to deploy modern transportation systems and advanced vehicles.
The transportation bill conference is an immense opportunity to bolster the backbone of these advanced transportation modes, and to create multitudes of jobs in doing so. The Senate has created a clear path to make this happen by passing a strong transportation bill. As the conference process moves forward in the coming weeks, we hope the conferees can put politics aside in order to make that vision a reality and send a strong final bill to the President’s desk.