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Dot Convenes Panel On Transportation Funding


In a panel session hosted by the Department of Transportation, the 2010 American Road & Transportation Builders Association Chairman Larry Tate said it was time to level with the public about the scope of the transportation challenges facing the nation and how much time and money it will take to address them

In a panel session hosted by the Department of Transportation, the 2010 American Road & Transportation Builders Association Chairman Larry Tate said it was time to level with the public about the scope of the transportation challenges facing the nation and how much time and money it will take to address them. Tate is Caterpillar's worldwide product manager.

ìFirst and foremost, the nationís future economic growth, which makes possible our quality of life, is heavily dependent on the state of our transportation infrastructure network,î Tate said. ìIf, in the future, we invest in making our network more efficient in moving people--and particularly goods--by adding capacity across all modes, we will be competitive internationally and able to and create and sustain American job growth. If we make the wrong choices, we wonít.î

Tate also said that by 2050, the American population will grow by an estimated 112 million people to 420 million, which alone will tremendously increase demand for all products and commodities and American jobs. And, freight demand will also double in the next 40 years, from 15 billion tons today to 30 billion tons.

ìFor the future, we absolutely need to make adding significant new capacity to the nationís highway system a top federal priority. We need to address the known traffic chokepoints and create regional critical commerce corridors to move goods,î Tate said.

ìThat is not to say that we donít also need to add capacity to the other modes. We do, including to our ocean ports and the connections to them. High speed rail could certainly compete with aviation at some point.î

In a fiscally constrained environment, tough choices will have to be made by elected leaders, the ARTBA chairman noted. ìSpreading the peanut butter around wonít cut it,î he said. "The question needs to be: 'What investments will give the American people as a whole the biggest return on their investment and help ensure a good quality of life for our grandchildren?'"

Tate said that the nearly 10-month delay in passing a new surface transportation bill has impacted the construction market. "At Caterpillar, weíve had to lay off more than 20,000 employees over the past two years, in large part, because the domestic construction market has been so bad," he reported. "Contractors will not make investments in expensive new equipment if they are uncertain about the availability of future work. And the truth is, federal funding is what drives the state highway and transit construction programs."

The best thing Congress and the president could do to foster economic growth and job creation is to pass a robust, multi-year reauthorization done right after the election or first thing in 2011, Tate emphasized.