House Jobs Measure Provides Needed Boost for InfrastructureDecember 17, 2009
By Transportation for America
Changes Needed In Senate to Get Biggest Bang for the Buck
The transportation spending priorities in the jobs bill, set for a vote in the House of Representatives today, will provide much needed short-term funding for our roads, bridges and transit systems that will put Americans to work across the country. These “stopgap” provisions will save and create jobs, and give states and localities the opportunity to start bringing their crumbling transportation systems back into a state of good repair.
Riders of public transportation systems all over the U.S. will benefit in particular from the provision allowing large transit systems to use 10 percent of the $6.15 billion in formula funding for operations, a critical provision during this crisis in transit funding. This emergency operating assistance will save jobs and prevent debilitating fare increases and services cuts that make it more difficult for working people to get where they need to go.
But to get the biggest bang for the buck in job creation and increase accountability for transportation funding, the Senate can make meaningful changes that will focus investments in a smarter more responsible way towards projects that create the most jobs, fastest and build for the long-term health of our economy.
In adjusting the jobs bill the Senate should:
- Include language to ensure the $27.5 billion allocated to the traditional highway program goes towards projects that restore our transportation networks to a state of good repair. The American Society of Civil Engineers has estimated current road repair needs at $94 billion per year. These “fix-it-first” projects are ready to go faster than other projects and create 16 percent more jobs than new highway construction. Unfortunately, the current draft fails to include language ensuring highway money is prioritized to fix crumbling roads and bridges.
- Include funding for Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) and the Department of Transportation’s High Speed Rail and TIGER programs to create good green jobs modernizing our transportation system and provide significant long-term benefits for the nation. The merit-based investments in the TIGER program increase accountability of spending and ensure we are funding projects that would create the most jobs and deliver the biggest benefits. The $1.5 billion TIGER grants available in the ARRA attracted $57 billion in applications, leaving more than $55 billion unfunded.
- Include workforce development provisions to target new transportation construction jobs to the people who need them most. This can be done by dedicating one percent of all funding for apprenticeship and construction careers programs in the transportation sector and by targeting 30 percent of all construction work hours to local, lower-income workers.
This jobs bill will provide needed funding for transportation projects to stem the tide of continuing job losses. But short-term measures, based on an outmoded, 1950s-era transportation program, simply are not sufficient to meet the economic challenges of the 21st century.
We applaud the House leadership for addressing the short-term needs for job creation while keeping a focus on taking up the successor legislation to the expired SAFETEA-LU law in earnest in this Congress. We look forward to supporting Congress and the Administration in bring about a bold new vision for our transportation program that supports long-term economic growth and creates a safer, cleaner, smarter system for everyone.