Passing Long-Term Highway Bill Crucial for
Thirty percent of all U.S. bridges have exceeded their “lifespan” of 50 years. Photo used under a Creative Commons License from Flickr user KOMUnews.
America’s infrastructure is in a state of disrepair, earning a D+ grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers just last year.
But some temporary relief came last week in the form of a short-term fix to the embattled Highway Trust Fund – the federal transportation account that helps bolster more than 2 million jobs annually to build and maintain bridges, highways and transit systems.
For months, the possibility of the fund drying up this summer looked like a possibility amid partisan gridlock in Washington. Instead, House members voted 367-to-55 July 16 for an $11 billion interim funding measure that would shore up construction spending on the country’s ailing infrastructure. The bill is expected to pass the Senate just before the long August congressional recess.
The lawmakers’ move looks to save 700,000 jobs that could have gotten the axe on Aug. 1, when a budget shortfall would have spurred the Department of Transportation to slash its construction spending by nearly 30 percent – an outcome that would have had damaging ripple effects throughout the states.
A Seattle worker repairs potholes – which cost American drivers $80 billion in vehicle damage in 2013 alone. Photo used under a Creative Commons License from Flickr user Seattle Municipal Archives.
The problem? This short-term measure ignores the scope and breadth of what it is going to take to fully invest in our nation’s needed infrastructure updates, President Obama said.
“Congress shouldn’t pat itself on the back for averting disaster for a few months, kicking the can down the road for a few months, careening from crisis to crisis,” Obama said immediately following the vote, according to the New York Times. “We should be investing in the future.”
Both the Obama administration and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee have separately put forth bigger proposals that would fund transportation improvement jobs for at least four years.
The need is dire. The Laborers union has been at the forefront of promoting robust investment, launching a 22-city tour highlighting the necessity of long-term funding. LiUNA’s “Getting Schooled in Infrastructure” tour makes sobering points:
One fourth of America’s bridges are either deficient or obsolete.
30 percent of U.S. bridges have exceeded their 50-year design life.
Poorly maintained roads contribute to one-third of all traffic fatalities.
Potholes cost American drivers $80 billion in vehicle damage in 2013 alone.
“The House made a fair start toward fixing the Highway Trust Fund,” said IBEW International President Edwin D. Hill. “But much more needs to be done. Putting thousands of hard-working men and women to work on projects to improve our roads, bridges and transit would save lives, improve our nation and provide good, middle-class jobs. We’ve taken some introductory steps – now we need to see it through to completion.”
Take action: Call your representative at (888) 717-2650, and urge him or her to work on a long term Highway Trust Fund solution.
To learn more, visit LiUNA’s campaign page at www.fixourbridges.org.