Senators Coons, Carper urge highway bill conferees to shorten multi-year transportation bill, maximize investments in crumbling infrastructure

Senators: “Current funding levels are insufficient to rebuild and modernize our nation’s transportation infrastructure.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – November 19, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — U.S. Senators Chris Coons and Tom Carper (both D-DE) today sent a letter to House-Senate conferees negotiating a final Highway and Transportation Bill compromise, urging them to focus on our nation’s crumbling infrastructure by shortening the authorization period for the bill and using the savings to maximize annual investment levels for all surface transportation programs.

Sens. Booker (D-NJ), Bennet (D-CO), Blumenthal (D-CT), Cantwell (D-Wash), Cardin (D-MD), Casey (D-PA), Feinstein (D-CA), Franken(D-MN), Gillibrand (D-NY), Kaine (D-VA), King (I-ME), Klobuchar(D-MN), Manchin (D-WV), Merkley(D-OR), Markey (D-MA), Menendez(D-NJ), Murphy (D-CT), Peters (D-MI), Reed(D-RI), Sanders (D-VT), Schatz (D-HI) Stabenow(D-MI), Udall (D-NM), Warner(D-VA), Warren (D-MA), and Whitehouse (D-WI) also joined the letter.

“As you begin conference negotiations to reconcile House and Senate proposals for a multi-year surface transportation reauthorization bill, we urge you to consider the urgent need for an increase in infrastructure investment around the country, and report a final proposal that can best address these needs by maximizing annual investment levels for all surface transportation programs over a shorter authorization period… The impact of underinvestment on American businesses and families is real. The average driver spends 42 hours in traffic each year – the equivalent of an entire workweek, while burning through 2.9 billion gallons of gasoline. The poor conditions of our roadways increases auto repair and maintenance costs by over $500 per vehicle. American businesses pay $27 billion a year in extra freight transportation costs, increasing shipping delays and raising prices on everyday products. Despite record ridership levels, on-time performance of many passenger rail routes continues to decline due to lack of federal investment, causing frequent delays for millions of passengers. Our crumbling infrastructure is also a serious safety concern. Poor roadway conditions were a significant factor in approximately one-third of the more than 33,000 traffic fatalities last year, ”the Senators wrote.

The Senators conclude, “While the proposed Senate investment levels exceed baseline funding, they would still only be sufficient to cover expected increases in construction materials costs. These funding levels are certainly insufficient to rebuild and modernize our nation’s transportation infrastructure.”

Full text of the letter follows:

Dear Conferees:

As you begin conference negotiations to reconcile House and Senate proposals for a multi-year surface transportation reauthorization bill, we urge you to consider the urgent need for an increase in infrastructure investment around the country, and report a final proposal that can best address these needs by maximizing annual investment levels for all surface transportation programs over a shorter authorization period.

Both the House and Senate versions of the legislation contain numerous policy reforms that will help to address America’s infrastructure challenges. However, no set of policy reforms can substitute for what is truly needed to make significant progress toward rebuilding and modernizing our nation’s infrastructure: funding.

Over the past 20 years, total federal, state, and local investment in transportation has fallen as a share of GDP, while population, congestion, and maintenance backlogs have increased. In fact, America’s investment in transportation as a share of GDP is at its lowest point in decades, falling more than 50 percent since 1962. Sixty-five percent of America’s major roads are rated in less than good condition, one in four bridges require significant repair or cannot handle today’s traffic, and forty five percent of Americans lack access to transit.

The impact of underinvestment on American businesses and families is real. The average driver spends 42 hours in traffic each year – the equivalent of an entire workweek, while burning through 2.9 billion gallons of gasoline. The poor conditions of our roadways increases auto repair and maintenance costs by over $500 per vehicle. American businesses pay $27 billion a year in extra freight transportation costs, increasing shipping delays and raising prices on everyday products. Despite record ridership levels, on-time performance of many passenger rail routes continues to decline due to lack of federal investment, causing frequent delays for millions of passengers. Our crumbling infrastructure is also a serious safety concern. Poor roadway conditions were a significant factor in approximately one-third of the more than 33,000 traffic fatalities last year.

As others have pointed out, prior to MAP-21, each successive transportation package contained significant increases in annual funding levels. While the proposed Senate investment levels exceed baseline funding, they would still only be sufficient to cover expected increases in construction materials costs. These funding levels are certainly insufficient to rebuild and modernize our nation’s transportation infrastructure.

With all this in mind, we strongly urge you to finalize a surface transportation conference report that can provide the maximum amount of benefits to American families and businesses by prioritizing increased investment for all surface transportation programs over the length of the authorization.

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