Transportation Bill to Spur Job Growth
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For the first time in seven years, Congress passed a $105 billion multiyear surface transportation bill, bringing certainty to road, highway, bridge, and transit projects and ensuring that project dollars are spent more wisely and stretched further. The job-creating bill, signed into law by President Obama on July 6, represents a significant victory for the U.S. Chamber and other pro-growth groups following a sustained lobbying, grassroots, and media campaign.
“In the near term, this legislation will save thousands of jobs in construction and related industries,” says Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue. “In the long term, it will strengthen the nation’s economy and global competitiveness. While we would have preferred a bill covering a period longer than 27 months and with greater funding, this is a major step in the right direction.”
The bill begins to address chronic underinvestment in the nation’s infrastructure. According to a 2011 study by the Urban Land Institute and Ernst & Young, $2 trillion is needed just to repair and rebuild deteriorating infrastructure, including roads and bridges. A study by the American Society of Civil Engineers came to a similar conclusion, estimating that a $2.2 trillion investment over five years is needed to expand and improve the nation’s infrastructure. The World Economic Forum this year dropped America to15th in its infrastructure competitiveness world ranking. Just five years ago, America was No. 1.
In addition to averting major cuts in infrastructure investment, the new multiyear bill consolidates overlapping and duplicative federal programs and streamlines the project delivery process. The bill gives states the flexibility to target federal funds where they are most needed and increases funding for a federal credit assistance program designed to fill market gaps and leverage substantial private co-investment.
The bill promises to be a major boon to the sagging construction industry. According to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, the transportation construction industry generates more than $380 billion in total annual economic activity for the nation—nearly 3% of the U.S. GDP—and supports the equivalent 3.4 million full-time jobs.
While praising the bill, the Chamber sounded the alarm over a structural deficiency in a surface transportation funding formula that Congress has yet to address. The federal Highway Trust Fund, even after receiving an infusion of general Treasury funds over the past several years, is projected to go bankrupt in 2013 as federal gas tax revenues decline.
Says Donohue: “The bigger challenge lies ahead—devising a predictable, sustainable, and growing source of dedicated, user fee-based funding to ensure that we have adequate resources to maintain the world’s greatest infrastructure system for decades to come. We promise to work with members of Congress to pursue that important goal.”