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Fixing Our Transportation System Will Help Fuel Economic Recovery

AISI President and CEO
Thomas J. Gibson
On a good day, it takes me approximately 30 minutes to drive 11 miles from my house in Alexandria, VA to my office in Washington, D.C., but on a bad day, I have sat in over two hours of traffic.  Needless to say, along with most Americans, the last thing I want to do is spend more time stuck in traffic or on a broken down bus, drive over unsafe bridges or spend more money on the groceries and goods that are shipped to my local stores.   Without regular investment and upgrades, our nation’s transportation infrastructure will become inefficient and unsafe.  Key segments are already badly in need of repair.  It is time for Congress to develop a long-term solution for funding our highways, bridges and public transportation systems to drive economic recovery and protect our citizens.  

Americans travel approximately 3 trillion miles annually on our nation’s roads and highways.  However, traffic congestion is costing our economy over $80 billion and wasting 2.8 billion gallons of fuel every year.  Twenty-five percent of U.S. bridges are in major need of repair or replacement and poor road conditions contribute to roughly half of the nation’s highway fatalities. 

Each of us relies on our transportation network to get to work, to deliver the goods and services we rely on, to send our children to school and to improve our quality of life.  That is why I find it troubling to learn that our road and transit network faces even more declines because of Congress’ failure to enact the six-year surface transportation legislation almost a year after the previous law expired.  Unless new legislation is passed soon, federal investments in our roads, bridges and transit systems will be cut in half by 2012. 

A six-year transportation authorization bill will not only make our nation’s highways and roads safer, but will also create jobs and stimulate the economy.  For every $1 billion in federal highway investment, it creates 30,000 new jobs and generates more than $2 billion in economic activity.  And highway funding serves as an employment multiplier.  For example, in addition to employment of construction workers directly engaged with bridge repair and replacement, bridge funding produces manufacturing jobs from material suppliers, fabricators and construction equipment producers, designers, as well as indirect employment resulting from wages to supporting industries. 

I strongly urge Congress to pass a fully-funded transportation bill before the end of this year.  Such a bill will provide the resources our state and local officials need to cut traffic, repair aging roads and bridges, improve local transit service and restore confidence in our nation’s transportation system.   It will also give a boost to local economies by creating high-paying jobs at a critical point in our nation’s path to economic recovery.

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