Speaking in New York this week, President Obama said that no sector has suffered more as a result of the recession than the construction industry. He is urging Congress to approve billions of dollars in funding for infrastructure-improvement projects, such as those to fix the nation’s declining roads, bridges, and rail systems. In addition to the much needed repairs, he said that new infrastructure projects would put many people back to work as well as attracting businesses. While countries like China have stepped up their investment in infrastructure such as transportation systems, the U.S. federal investment in infrastructure has declined in recent years. Unless new spending is approved by Congress soon, the Highway Trust Fund faces the risk of running out of money this summer. This, the administration says, would delay over 100,000 road projects and jeopardize 700,000 construction jobs. Additionally, calculations performed by the American Society of Civil Engineers show that $3.6 trillion in funding will be needed to adequately address our nation’s infrastructure problems by the end of this decade.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously approved a plan that would spend $265 billion on transportation projects in the next six years, as long as Congress can come up with the money. Much of the money would come from the reauthorization of the federal gas tax, which would collect $34 billion per year; other funding mechanisms would have to make up the difference. While this deal, if it passes through Congress, does not rise to the level of funding that Obama has called for, it would keep the Highway Trust Fund from running out of money until 2020.
The Associated General Contractors of America CEO Stephen Sandherr said:
“The fact that a new highway and transit bill proposed by Sens. Vitter and Boxer received the bipartisan backing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee shows members of both parties understand the value of investing in our aging surface transportation systems. This bill will make it significantly easier for state and local transportation officials to plan for and fund projects to rebuild bridges, repair roads and improve transit options.”