Preserve Highway and Transit Funding in 2011
To the Members of the United States Congress:
In 2011, Congressional leaders are faced with difficult fiscal circumstances. The federal budget and appropriations processes appear dominated by discussion of deficit reduction, and Americans expect their leaders to make tough choices just as they have for their own households.
However, without proper investment and attention to infrastructure, the United States’ economic stability, potential for job growth, global competitiveness, and quality of life are all at risk. Cuts to federal highway and public transportation funding might appear to be penny wise, but could actually be a pound foolish.
For the remainder of FY 2011 appropriations, holding federal highway, highway safety and public transportation funding levels steady, at a minimum, is needed to support direct construction jobs plus additional employment related to materials, equipment, and services jobs in the construction sector that has nearly 20 percent unemployment. Increasing investment could do even more by giving the country an economic shot-in-the-arm and support even more direct jobs in the short term.
There are serious transportation problems in this country that are getting in the way of economic and job growth. The national transportation system is the backbone of the business supply chain, yet underinvestment in the nation’s surface transportation systems is putting U.S. companies at a competitive disadvantage. The U.S. economy sacrifices hundreds of billions of dollars annually in wasted fuel, lost productivity, and delayed shipments. With almost 30 percent of the nation’s economic output totally dependent on international trade, the transportation system that facilitates the production and delivery of U.S. goods and services demanded by 95 percent of the world’s population must be up to the task. However, the U.S. economy and its firms are losing ground to our major international competitors that are building to compete: it is time for the United States to do the same.
As important as the consequences of underinvestment are the opportunity costs. Public and private investment in the economic foundation of the United States is critical for long-term economic prosperity and a high quality of life. As President Obama said in his State of the Union Address, “Lasting jobs and economic development grow where infrastructure is strong. Students of history will remember that America is the nation that built the transcontinental railroad, brought electricity to rural communities, and constructed the interstate highway system. The permanent jobs created as a result of building the transcontinental railroad or the interstate highway system came from businesses that opened near a town’s new train station or a new off-ramp.”
Delaying investment won’t make transportation problems go away. Instead, conditions and performance will get worse. Materials, labor, and land will get more expensive. Opportunities to save lives and prevent injury will be missed. Americans are already paying dearly for inferior transportation, through lost productivity, wasted fuel, and tragically, more crashes.
Investments in the nation's highways, highway safety and public transportation systems are a core federal government responsibility. For the good of our economy we must continue to increase investment in our infrastructure: now is the wrong time to cut back on investments in America’s future.