House lawmakers, states call for more transportation stimulus

| 12/2/2009

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee leaders are urging Congress and the White House to keep stimulus funds flowing for transportation past May 2010. That’s when funds and jobs flowing from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act are expected to wind down.

T&I Committee Chairman James Oberstar, D-MN, and Highways and Transit Subcommittee Chairman Peter DeFazio, D-OR, were joined at a press conference Wednesday, Dec. 2, by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and construction trades to make the push for a new jobs bill.

“We need to sustain and extend this investment,” Oberstar said, adding that only 16 days remain in the 2009 Congressional year. “We need to do this now. We need to get this passed.”

At the T&I Committee’s request, AASHTO generated a list of 9,500 projects worth $69.5 billion they say are ready to go within 120 days. More than $47 billion could be put to work immediately on 7,500 highway projects, and $22 billion would go to transit, rail, ports, intermodal and aviation projects.

Executive Director John Horsley presented AASHTO’s report to the T&I Committee and to Chairman Barbara Boxer of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Oberstar commended state officials for getting their recovery act funds and jobs under contract to benefit transportation. By May, the stimulus money and jobs will wind down, he added.

Oberstar said his preference in the grand scheme of transportation is to get a six-year transportation authorization bill passed, funded and implemented as soon as possible.

He seized the opportunity to pressure the Senate for wanting to delay an authorization bill for months.
“It’s apparent that the other body can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. They can only do health care,” said Oberstar.

When asked whether he would support a six-month extension of current programs as the Senate has recently urged, Oberstar said the House, Senate and White House must get together on a plan.

“I don’t know if it will be six months. My preference is less,” he said.

Oberstar and DeFazio sent a letter Wednesday to President Obama urging him to support a new jobs bill.

– By David Tanner, staff writer