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Fixing the Highway Trust Fund Isn't Rocket Science, but Stakes Are High

Photo via Washington State DOT

The Highway Trust Fund pays for the upkeep of our roads, bridges and public transit. Yet for more than two decades, Congress has failed to increase its funding. The fund hasn't kept up with inflation, let alone the urgent needs for the modernization of our transportation systems. Now a crisis, years in the making, is coming to a head.

Time is running out for Congress to fund the Highway Trust Fund, and hundreds of thousands of jobs are at stake—700,000 jobs to be exact. That’s more than double the number of jobs created last month. To be quite frank, the backbone of our entire economy is at stake.

Unless Congress takes action, the fund will be depleted completely in less than one month.

Fixing the Highway Trust Fund is not rocket science, but there’s no doubt the stakes are high. Lost jobs and other serious economic implications should be enough to force Congress to act, but it has continued to drag its feet. Last month, the Laborers (LIUNA) launched a campaign in 22 cities, titled “Getting Schooled in Infrastructure,” to prevent our roads and bridges from deteriorating further. If nothing is done, the effects will be felt across the country. Drivers will spend more time stuck in traffic, face more pothole-laden roads and risk collapsing bridges.

Here are the facts:

-          25% of our bridges are already structurally deficient.

-          42% of our major urban highways are congested, costing businesses and workers more than $100 billion each year.

-          The American Society of Civil Engineers gives our nation’s infrastructure a grade of D+.

-          The World Economic Forum competitiveness report ranks our roads 18th and our railroads 17th in the world.

Accidents waiting to happen include the Broadway Bridge in Boise, Idaho, which has the poorest structural rating of any bridge in the state. Yet, it holds thousands of people on its sidewalks on game days at Boise State University. Road improvement projects have come to a halt across the country, affecting states like Massachusetts, Arkansas and Kentucky. In Kentucky, a road-widening project on Interstate 65 was delayed due to lack of federal funds. The portion of the road the proposed project would widen was the site of a car crash in March 2010 that claimed the lives of 11 people

We need leaders in Congress to put politics aside and work to protect our roads and create jobs. The politicians who say we can’t create jobs and we can’t afford safe bridges, good highways, smart energy grids and high-speed rail are pretty ignorant about business, about real life and about America's economy. That’s why I testified on Capitol Hill, along with Tom Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. We both called on Congress to find viable solutions to this crisis. The answers are right in front of us but require the political will to get it done.

Infrastructure investment is the engine of job growth our country needs. Every $1 billion in federal funding toward the Highway Trust Fund will generate 35,000 jobs. These are the investments that allow America’s families to trust our infrastructure again and businesses to be more competitive. The federal Highway Trust Fund is that solid investment.

The time to act is now. So join me in calling your member of Congress by dialing 202-224-3121.

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