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Without Highway Bill, 700,000 Jobs at Risk

Washington  State DOT photo

If Congress doesn’t act soon, more than 700,000 middle class jobs building the nation’s highways, bridges and transit systems will be at risk.

While the legislation authorizing the spending for those vital projects doesn’t expire until Sept. 30, the Highway Trust Fund that helps states pay for transportation construction and upkeep is running out of money and layoffs could begin later next month.

Last month President Obama said:

There are more than 100,000 active projects paving roads and rebuilding bridges, modernizing our transit systems. States might have to choose which ones to put the brake on. Some states are already starting to slow down work because they’re worried Congress won’t untangle the gridlock on time.  

The Obama Administration has offered a 4-year reauthorization plan called the Grow America Act and in May the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed a bipartisan bill that reauthorizes transportation spending for six years.

Funding remains uncertain and leaders the Republican-controlled House so far have only floated what AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department (TTD) President Ed Wytkind called “a ridiculous proposal” to fund highway projects by eliminating Saturday mail delivery.

It is disappointing that House Republican leaders have resurrected a strategy – taken right out of the failed playbook from last Congress—of funding surface transportation needs on the backs of workers who have nothing to do with the funding shortfalls we face.   

The transportation reauthorization is the largest jobs-creation bill Congress deals with on a regular basis. It provides certainty needed for projects to move forward and traditionally has been long-term legislation, but in recent years Republican leaders have tried to use the legislation as a vehicle for extremist and partisan provisions.

Operating Engineers President James T. Callahan urged Congress to act swiftly.

American families are counting on [Congress] to do its jobs…Hundreds of thousands of American workers depend on these investments for their livelihoods. Multi-year funding is the only solution to rebuild our crumbling roads and bridges the right way…We urge lawmakers to move swiftly and move boldly before the Highway Trust Fund runs dry.

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