Everyone can agree that we are facing daunting economic challenges, and our economy is in a recession. With each passing day, families across America are watching their bills pile up and their savings disappear.
Compounding the problem, our nation’s infrastructure is in desperate need of improvements. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, only 42 percent of our roads are in “good” condition, 13.1 percent of our bridges are structurally deficient and 13.6 percent of our highways are obsolete.
Our crumbling infrastructure costs lives from traffic deaths that could be avoided with safer, more modern design and capacity. Inadequate infrastructure also wastes time and money in traffic jams. The financial cost of this waste is estimated to be $78 billion per year.
While President Barack Obama rightly took action to try to stimulate the economy in February, the plan he signed into law simply increases spending on current programs that are pork-laden and have nothing to do with stimulating the economy or rebuilding our infrastructure.
For months, President Obama touted the need for a significant investment in our nation’s infrastructure. His proposal was billed as a transportation and infrastructure investment package, but in actuality, less than six percent will be put towards improving our roads, runways, rail lines and rivers. This amount of funding simply will not create the amount of jobs promised by the president.
When this legislation was first considered in the House, I worked in a bipartisan fashion with the chairman and ranking member of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, on which I serve, to propose a $90 billion investment in infrastructure, which would create or sustain 2.7 million jobs of the 3.5 million the president has requested be created through stimulus.
While this proposal failed to pass the House, Democratic leaders sent this bill to conference with the promise it would return with more infrastructure funding. However, instead of fulfilling this promise, they’ve simply just redefined the word “infrastructure” to include programs and spending previously contained in the bill under different titles. In the final bill, real infrastructure spending now only accounts for six percent—less than the initial House version.
The day before the final bill passed the House, I had the honor of traveling on Air Force One with our president as he flew to Peoria to address workers at Caterpillar. As I sat in the audience surrounded by hard-working employees, the president called me out by name and called upon the crowd to share their opinions on the stimulus with me. When the president finished his remarks, the crowd heeded his advice and surrounded me to shake my hand. The message they delivered to me, however, was to oppose this bill, which we all knew would not create jobs or stimulate economic growth.
It is important to note, however, that the stimulus is not the final word Congress will have on transportation and infrastructure this session. The Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure will soon begin work on the five-year highway bill. This legislation is intended to improve and maintain the surface transportation infrastructure in the United States, including the interstate highway system, transit systems around the country, bicycling and pedestrian facilities and freight rail operations.
I am the sole Republican freshman member of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, where this bill will be written, and I plan to use my seat to advocate for the priorities of central Illinois, which include stimulating economic growth by creating new jobs, rebuilding our nation’s crumbling infrastructure and ensuring the vitality of navigable waterways. iBi