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All eyes are on a new transportation bill

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
March 26, 2012

My calendar says today is March 26, which means in less than a week the most recent continuing resolution (the eighth and counting) for federal surface transportation funding will expire.

Last week, the House introduced yet another three-month extension to keep funding at current levels through June 30, as it does not appear it is going to take up the Senate’s recently passed bill before the end of this month.

Readers of this space know I have repeatedly said there is an alarming amount of limited progress when it comes to getting a new bill in place. I mean, this September will mark the three-year anniversary of SAFETA-LU expiring. Only in Washington, could these endless extensions or continuing resolutions be considered “normal.”

Well, guess what? It is not normal in any way, shape, or form. And with political bickering and infighting clearly established as completely acceptable behavior inside the Beltway, there is plenty of blame to go around (regardless of party affiliation) as to why we are getting—and have gotten nowhere—when it comes to getting a new bill in place.

But that is not really the point here this time around. On a very closely-related note, the topic of Congress getting its act together and passing a bill was a focal point of President Obama’s Weekly Radio Address yesterday.

Here is what he had to say:
“So much of America needs to be rebuilt right now. We’ve got crumbling roads and bridges. A power grid that wastes too much energy. An incomplete high-speed broadband network. And we’ve got thousands of unemployed construction workers who’ve been looking for a job ever since the housing market collapsed.

But once again, we’re waiting on Congress. You see, in a matter of days, funding will stop for all sorts of transportation projects. Construction sites will go idle. Workers will have to go home. And our economy will take a hit.

This Congress cannot let that happen. Not at a time when we should be doing everything in our power – Democrats and Republicans – to keep this recovery moving forward. The Senate did their part. They passed a bipartisan transportation bill. It had the support of 52 Democrats and 22 Republicans. Now it’s up to the House to follow suit; to put aside partisan posturing, end the gridlock, and do what’s right for the American people.

This is common sense. Right now, all across this country, we’ve got contractors and construction workers who have never been more eager to get back on the job. A long term transportation bill would put them to work. And those are good jobs. We just released a report that shows nearly 90 percent of the construction, manufacturing and trade jobs created through investments in transportation projects are middle class jobs.
Those are exactly the jobs we need right now, and they’ll make the economy stronger for everybody.”

All seems to make pretty good sense, eh? That report, entitled “2010 Status of the Nation’s Highways, Bridges, and Transit: Conditions and Performance,” the President mentioned, includes a few significant takeaways:
-there is a sizable gap between current spending and projected levels of investment needed to maintain the nation’s highway and transit systems;
-$101 billion, plus increases for inflation, would be needed annually over the next 20 years from all levels of government – local, state and federal – to keep the highway system in its current state; and
- in 2008, all levels of government spent a combined total of $91.1 billion on highway capital improvements, a 48.4 percent increase over 2000. 

Those are pretty big numbers, which indicate the obvious in that a lot of money, time, and commitments are required to preserve, build, and develop transportation infrastructure.

Not only do supply chains depend on it, consumers and citizens do, too. Let’s hope it happens.

As Tom Coughlin, two-time Super Bowl champion coach of the New York Giants has often said: “Talk is cheap. Play the game.” Maybe it is finally time Congress took that advice to heart and gets this done—soon.

About the Author

Jeff Berman headshot
Jeff Berman
Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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