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AASHTO Journal

109 Representatives Urge President to Get Behind 6-Year Transportation Bill
One-fourth of U.S. representatives signed a letter Monday to President Barack Obama urging him to give his full support for a long-term surface transportation reauthorization bill.

"Such legislation will address our urgent transportation and infrastructure needs; create jobs for Americans; and give the private sector important incentives to locate, invest, and hire here in the United States," states the letter, which was drafted by Reps. Aaron Schock, R-Illinois; Jim Cooper, D-Tennessee; Patrick Meehan, R-Pennsylvania; and John Carney Jr., D-Delaware. A total of 109 House members endorsed the letter.

The letter contends that aging infrastructure risks creating a safety hazard for Americans, and notes that transportation project backlogs increase costs for small businesses and hurt job creation and economic growth.

"To address these urgent economic, transportation, and safety needs, we believe our country needs a six-year, fully funded and paid-for transportation reauthorization with investments above current funding," representatives wrote to the president. "Short-term extensions fail to recognize that meaningful, large-scale transportation projects take years to plan, approve, and implement. The traditional six-year timeframe allows state departments of transportation to prepare for substantial infrastructure projects."

Congress last approved a multiyear highway and transit authorization measure in 2005. That law, known as "SAFETEA-LU," expired in September 30, 2009, and has been temporarily extended eight times. The present extension lasts until March 31. Neither chamber has cleared a reauthorization bill for floor consideration this session. A Senate bill has been approved by one of four required committees; a House bill has not been introduced yet. (see Dec. 2 AASHTO Journal story)

"A modern, safe, and efficient transportation authorization will not only create jobs now for the construction industry -- facing a 13.3% unemployment rate -- but it will also set the table for long-term job creation and economic growth," the letter states. "Global employers considering a presence in the United States will require a modern transportation infrastructure that enables them to move their finished products to the global marketplace in a timely and cost-efficient manner. Our aging and congested system is a strong disincentive for firms to expand their presence in the United States and create jobs here at home."

Representatives concluded the correspondence by informing the president they "stand willing to work with your administration on a variety of funding options. We have many ideas, but realize they are just a start and are happy to discuss others with you as well."

The letter does not mention any specific funding proposals.

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