Federal transportation funding is crucial to states, the economy, and job creation and must be continued at nothing less than current levels, according to Susan Martinovich, president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and director of the Nevada Department of Transportation.
Testifying at a hearing before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Martinovich said, "Contractors in our state tell me they need a backlog of three years of work to keep their crews together. Currently many see only six months of work on the horizon. With that uncertainty, they can't plan or buy equipment or supplies. They can't assure jobs for existing staff, let alone include training and internships for minority worker programs." Martinovich told the senators, "We are counting on you to sustain the transportation investment this country needs."
Martinovich said a good place to look at how transportation investment can bolster the economy is the unquestionable success of the state DOTs' response to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. "Last year, states delivered $24 billion in stimulus funding, which is allowing us to repair 35,000 miles of highways and 1,300 bridges, while reducing congestion and improving safety," Martinovich said.
Martinovich put the jobs issue into personal terms. "My son is a sergeant in the Marine Corps recovering from serious wounds," she said. "He and many of his fellow Marines spent time in Afghanistan building infrastructure. Transportation is an industry that can provide these warriors with jobs back home – jobs they are skilled to undertake, yet it's not sure they will be there for them."
In written testimony presented to the committee, Martinovich detailed four main points:
- Transportation is Vital to the Economy: It is currently supporting a $700 billion trucking industry, $600 billion in International trade, transportation for $365 billion in agricultural products, and access for a $500 billion travel and tourism industry.
- Sustaining an Export-Led Recovery: For the past year U.S. exports have been expanding at double-digit rates. Sustaining an export-led economic recovery strategy will require a national freight transportation system that is efficient and reliable.
- Infrastructure Investment Deficit: As a nation, we face not only a fiscal deficit but also a transportation infrastructure deficit that must be addressed if we are to ensure a prosperous and economically competitive future.
- Construction Jobs: As demonstrated through ARRA projects, which helped reduce the unemployment rate in the construction industry from 27 percent in January 2010 to 18 percent by November 2010, transportation investment creates jobs.
Martinovich ended her testimony by stressing the critical need for Congress to enact a long-term surface transportation authorization bill this year. "Funding the program at a $500 billion level would help to double transit ridership, preserve and modernize the highway system, and enable us to launch a new era of intercity passenger rail," she said.