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Congress Must Address Transportation and Infrastructure

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An often ignored facet of public policy is the legislative calendar. With much to do both in Washington and back in their districts, members are under a constant time crunch. Unfortunately this can leave important initiatives in jeopardy.

As I pointed out a few months ago, transportation infrastructure in this country is quickly approaching a tipping point. Yet, the vitally important transportation bill has languished as other initiatives take precedence. Despite its merits the bill carries a heavy price tag. Even if the $500 billion are offset, the current climate around spending could hamper efforts to pass the bill.

True, some funding for transportation has been included in smaller bills, but these half-measures do not adequately address the pressing need to rehabilitate this country’s infrastructure. It is not just roads and bridges, but how funds are invested that we must change. Ancillary technologies such as synchronized and adaptive traffic signals return up to forty dollars for every one spent to the public.

In testimony before the House Committee on Ways and Means Representative Rosa DeLauro said,

“Along with the human cost of failing to invest in our infrastructure, there is also an economic cost in terms of lost opportunities for the type of job creation and economic growth we need to remain competitive in the 21st century. China puts 9 percent of its GDP into infrastructure, India 5 percent and rising. Here, we spend less than 2 percent of GDP.”

A pro-active approach in this area cannot be limited to a one time emergency spending bill. We must fundamentally change the way we go about investing in transportation infrastructure in the long term. If we persist in our reactive approach to this and other crises we cede the opportunity for prevention and future prosperity. This is an issue that Congress must address.

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