Senator Shaheen spoke on the Senate floor today to urge Congress to approve a long-term reauthorization of the federal transportation program. The transportation program is currently operating under a short-term extension that expires June 30. The uncertainty surrounding the bill has had a major effect on important transportation projects in New Hampshire, particularly the I-93 project.
Below are her remarks, as prepared for delivery:
Mr. President, in the summer of 1919 a young Army Captain set out on a tour from Washington to San Francisco that forever ingrained in his mind the critical importance of a world-class transportation system.
That young man, Dwight D. Eisenhower, later as President signed a law that revolutionized American transportation and created the Interstate Highway System. That law put hundreds of thousands of Americans to work building roads and bridges that connected our nation’s businesses to a wealth of new opportunities to bring their goods to market.
Yet in only 17 days, our nation’s surface transportation programs will shut down unless Congress acts to reauthorize them.
In March, nearly three-quarters of the Senate voted to pass a bipartisan long-term transportation bill that maintains current funding levels and avoids an increase in both the deficit and gas taxes.
Funding for transportation means more roads, buses, and railways to build and more jobs for construction and manufacturing workers. More jobs for workers means more consumer spending, and a stronger overall economy.
In fact, the Federal Highway Administration estimates that every $1 billion in highway spending supports more than 27,000 jobs.
Last week, I was glad to see an overwhelming, bipartisan majority in the House vote to reject policies that would cut spending on roads and public transit by one-third, destroying an estimated 2,000 New Hampshire jobs.
That vote sends an important signal to members of the conference committee that a strong, bipartisan majority in both houses of Congress support funding for crucial investments in our transportation network.
I call on the House to work with the Senate in a similar, bipartisan manner to pass transportation policies that put Americans back to work and generate economic growth.
We know that transportation projects create good jobs. In New Hampshire, our state Department of Transportation has begun a critical project to improve safety and reduce congestion on I-93. Just a single portion of this project created 369 jobs in the construction industry.
The I-93 project is important to not only the health of New Hampshire’s construction industry, but also the state’s economy as a whole.
Summer is once again upon us, and the traffic clogging I-93 every Friday evening serves as a reminder that the highway is the gateway to destinations in the White Mountains and Lakes Region that draw thousands of tourists to New Hampshire.
Tourism is New Hampshire’s second largest industry sectors and businesses that rely on it employ more than 64,000 people in our state.
Yet each day more than 100,000 cars travel on I-93, which was designed to hold only 60,000. Without improvements that ensure travel on I-93 is safe, reliable and fast, we test the patience of thousands of families who come to New Hampshire every summer and risk damaging a crucial industry, should they decide to go elsewhere because the traffic is unbearable.
We’ve seen the dramatic impact transportation projects can have in Hampton, where the New Hampshire Department of Transportation has built an innovative open-road tolling system that virtually eliminated congestion there and made travelling up the Seacoast a fast, pleasant experience for visitors and residents alike.
If Congress is unable to set aside the election year amendments and come together to do what’s right for our economy and our country and pass a transportation bill, it will be putting this country in a very difficult situation.
The Congressional Budget Office has projected that the Highway Trust Fund will run out of money next year and funding to states will face drastic cuts without a reauthorization that shores up revenue.
The uncertainty that possibility creates hampers the ability of states and private industry to invest in critical transportation projects.
Were the Highway Trust fund to run out of money, projects across the country would grind to a halt, decimating jobs in the construction industry.
Funding for transportation in the Senate’s bill mostly comes from the gas tax, as it always has. But to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent, the Senate agreed on bipartisan measures, including stiff penalties on tax delinquents, to make up the gap and it is vital that the conference committee do the same.
Investing in transportation creates jobs and creates the conditions for our small companies to succeed. It should not be an issue for politics, or for partisanship. I urge Congress to work together to pass a transportation reauthorization bill.
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