On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on the jobs bill. According to Transportation for America (T4 America), the transportation spending priorities in the bill will provide short-term funding for roads, bridges and transit systems that will put Americans to work across the country.
“Stopgap” provisions in the bill will save and create jobs, and give states and localities the opportunity to start bringing their transportation systems back into a state of good repair.
Riders of public transportation systems all over the U.S. will benefit in particular from the provision allowing large transit systems to use 10 percent of the $6.15 billion in formula funding for operations. This emergency operating assistance will save jobs and prevent fare increases and services cuts.
T4 America recommends that the U.S. Senate make meaningful changes that will focus investments toward projects that create the most jobs the fastest and build for the long-term health of the economy.
In adjusting the jobs bill the Senate should include:
- Language to ensure the $27.5 billion allocated to the traditional highway program goes toward projects that restore transportation networks to a state of good repair. The American Society of Civil Engineers has estimated current road repair needs at $94 billion per year. These “fix-it-first” projects are ready to go faster than other projects and create 16 percent more jobs than new highway construction. The current draft fails to include language ensuring highway money is prioritized to fix crumbling roads and bridges.
- Funding for Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) and the Department of Transportation’s High Speed Rail and TIGER programs to create green jobs modernizing the transportation system and providing significant long-term benefits for the nation. The merit-based investments in the TIGER program increase accountability of spending and ensure funding of projects that would create the most jobs and deliver the biggest benefits. The $1.5 billion TIGER grants available in the ARRA attracted $57 billion in applications, leaving more than $55 billion unfunded.
- Workforce development provisions to target new transportation construction jobs for the people who need them most. This can be done by dedicating one percent of all funding for apprenticeship and construction careers programs in the transportation sector and by targeting 30 percent of all construction work hours to local, lower-income workers.