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Opinion: Transportation stimulus funding only patched holes

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Dear Editor,

America’s transportation infrastructure system is inefficient, unsafe and in bad need of repair. Instead of addressing this pressing problem, Congress has been content to enact a series of short-term extensions of the nation’s surface transportation law that make it impossible for states to plan for the future. 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.

Providing short-term funding for transportation infrastructure in stimulus legislation has helped patch some of the most egregious holes in our transportation systems. But this money covered only a very small amount of what is needed to maintain, modernize and expand highway and transit infrastructure. Congress needs to follow through by tackling long-term planning and investment needs in the surface transportation bill before the Sept. 30 expiration of the current transportation act, known as the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users.  

Businesses depend on a transportation network that provides reliable, fast, safe and cost-effective performance. Transportation is also an important economic driver, creating jobs across construction, engineering and manufacturing sectors. About two of every 10 unemployed workers are from the construction industry – 2 million construction-related jobs have been lost since the recession began. The people of Missouri have been greatly impacted by this loss. Every $1 spent on transportation infrastructure projects generates an additional $1.80 of U.S. gross domestic product, so spending on worthy transportation projects has great potential to boost our economy and reduce unemployment.

Unfortunately, all levels of government have failed to make long-term investments in transportation and a deteriorating transportation system threatens economic recovery and growth. Any American traveling daily by car, bus or train sees first-hand that our transportation infrastructure is failing to keep pace with the needs of a growing population and a growing economy.

In the near term, if we are to fix our aging infrastructure and make needed improvements, all funding options must be on the table, including an increase in the gas user fee or other user fees. Congress has to put a responsible package together, one that commits national resources to national priorities and ensures that dollars are spent wisely. For too long, short-term extensions have forced projects to stop and start, wasting time and money that could be used to achieve a cohesive national transportation plan.  

Congress should focus on passing a long-term reauthorization plan before the current extension expires. America’s transportation projects and workers cannot endure another short-term extension that leaves states unable to commit to the needed infrastructure improvements and businesses unable to make responsible capital investment and resource commitments. Our leaders in Washington must seize this critical opportunity to improve existing programs and increase investment in the nation’s roads, bridges and transit systems that are essential for future growth.

—Chris Upp, Conco Cos.[[In-content Ad]]

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