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On June 30th, will be 1,000 days since last long-term transportation bill expired

(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today called on the House of Representatives to pass a final version of a long-term federal transportation bill to fund critical highway and transit programs. The nation’s federal transportation programs are currently operating under a short-term extension that expires June 30. This uncertainty has a major effect on important projects such as I-93.

Shaheen’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below:

Mr. President, in 23 days our nation’s surface transportation programs will shut down unless Congress can come to an agreement on critical legislation.

Nearly three months ago, 74 Senators voted to pass a measure that would reauthorize these programs through the end of Fiscal Year 2013, providing much-needed certainty to states and private industry. 

Senators of vastly different ideologies were able to lay aside their differences and come up with bipartisan ways to pay for this bill and streamline federal programs to make our transportation investments more efficient, so we spend less on overhead and more on roads and bridges.

This process wasn’t easy, and it required compromise from both sides to ensure that we could put together legislation that will bring America’s transportation policies into the 21st Century.

I’ve been disturbed by recent news that the House appears less interested in finishing this bill than in approving a host of unrelated policies.

There is a time and place to consider whether coal ash should be regulated as a hazardous material, and the transportation bill is not it.  Rather, we must focus on policies that encourage the types of investment in our highways, bridges and railroads that put Americans back to work and spur economic growth.

The conference committee needs to focus on the transportation policies that will enable New Hampshire to make progress on the I-93 project, which would reduce congestion on one of our state’s most important road, create jobs and unleash economic development.

We know that projects like I-93 produce good jobs, which are what this country needs more than anything else.  New Hampshire’s Department of Transportation has said that work on just a single portion of the project created 369 jobs in the construction industry, which is still struggling.

Last year in Nashua and Portsmouth, construction employment declined by seven percent and job creation in the industry remains stagnant nationwide.  We need a new transportation bill to help get these folks back to work.

It’s not only construction jobs that depend on federal investments in transportation; it’s our economy as a whole.  The deteriorating condition of America’s infrastructure – its highways and railroads – costs businesses more than a hundred billion dollars a year in lost productivity. 

Both the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce agree we need new transportation legislation.  Despite the importance of transportation spending to American workers and businesses, today the House plans to vote on a motion to cut federal transportation investments by one-third.

The Federal Highway Administration found that cutting funding so severely would put 2,000 people in New Hampshire and half a million people nationwide out of work when we need to be creating jobs, not destroying them.

Cutting funding at this time would be terribly shortsighted.  Brazil, China and India are spending roughly 9 percent of their GDP per year on roads, bridges and public transportation.

We’re spending 2 percent.  That’s half of what we were spending in the 1960s when, during his 1,000 days in office, President Kennedy continued the policies of his Republican predecessor and invested heavily in the Interstate Highway System.

Both Republicans and Democrats agree that investment was one of the best decisions in our nation’s history.

Members of both parties must come together, as they have for decades, and focus on reasonable, bipartisan policies that can end the cloud of uncertainty hanging over states and private industry, improve federal transportation programs and create jobs.

On June 30th, it will have been 1,000 days since our last federal transportation bill expired.  I urge Congress to work together to pass a transportation reauthorization bill before that date.