Transportation reauthorization: The road to nowhere?
By Kerry Clines, Senior Editor
Federal investments in highways and transit systems are expected to decline by more than $15 billion this year compared to 2009, according to an analysis of transportation spending trends conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC). The association predicted an estimated 19.3-percent drop in federal formula and stimulus funding for transportation.
According to the analysis, the federal government invested $78.6 billion in road and transit construction projects in 2009, which included $51 billion in regular federal transportation funding and $27.6 billion in stimulus funding. The analysis predicts federal funding for highway and transit construction will only total $63.4 billion in 2010 — $9.8 billion will come from the remaining stimulus transportation funds and the rest from regular transportation funding.
The AGC states that non-stimulus federal transportation funds are stuck at near current levels because Congress has failed to pass a six-year surface transportation bill, leaving transportation funding at levels well below what multiple, independent, bipartisan commissions estimate are needed to keep pace with the nation’s transportation infrastructure needs.
A study conducted for the association found that every billion dollars invested in infrastructure projects creates or sustains an estimated 28,500 jobs and, based on that study, the $15.2 billion decline in highway and transit investments next year could result in more than 430,000 layoffs.
In response to the lack of funding and possible job losses, the Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC) launched a multi-media ad campaign calling on Congress and the administration to create thousands of long-term, sustainable American jobs by passing a new six-year highway/transit authorization bill. The campaign included a print ad that ran in Capitol Hill publications such as Roll Call, National Journal, Congress Daily, Congressional Quarterly, and Politico for several weeks, as well as in the Washington Post on Dec. 3 during President Obama’s national “Jobs Summit.” Sixty-second radio ads also ran on the day of the jobs summit during the morning “drive time” on WTOP, a news talk radio station in Washington, D.C.
In addition, the TCC organized a nationwide call-in on Dec. 10 to urge Congressional action on a highway reauthorization bill. A call to action was sent out to all state aggregates associations by the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association (NSSGA) to call their senators and representatives to remind them that the expired Highway and Transit program authorization needed to be addressed.
In the meantime, David R. Obey (D-Wis.), chairman of the Appropriations Committee, and James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.), who leads the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, have pitched Democratic leadership on the idea of using approximately $100 billion in general fund money to pay for highway and transit projects over the next two years, according to the Illinois Association of Aggregate Producers. The money could be approved as part of a stand-alone bill or included in an expected bill that Democratic House leaders said would be aimed directly at creating jobs.
According to NSSGA’s eDigest & Washington Watch newsletter, Oberstar and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) held news conferences calling for action on surface transportation authorization. Boxer planned to submit a proposal that would include transportation infrastructure investment in jobs.
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