President Obama’s announcement this week of a plan to rebuild and renew America by investing in our crumbling and overcrowded transportation system is great news. Dealing with our long list of urgent priorities, including repairing our roads and making America a leader in rail, is the only way to ensure that we remain competitive in the global economy.
As Chairman of the Livable Communities Task Force, a group of House Democrats committed to (among other things) ensuring that our communities have access to a wide range of public transportation options, I have been urging the administration to focus on infrastructure since it took office. With the President’s announcement of his $50 billion program for “roads, railways and runways,” we will continue to put Americans to work, improve safety, and move freight and people faster.
A good example is the “New Starts” program, which supports locally planned and operated public transit projects like light rail and bus systems. While New Starts has already used federal dollars to help make possible hundreds of new or improved public transit systems across the country, hundreds more systems have fallen into a state of disrepair and are overloaded by demand. President Obama’s new infrastructure plan will provide New Starts with much-needed funds to help communities meet their transportation needs.
Given our difficult economic climate, it’s worth discussing how a program like this will create jobs without adding significantly to our national debt.
A new report from the Transportation Equity Network shows just how effective infrastructure investment is at creating new American jobs: every $1 billion spent on public transit projects creates over 36,000 jobs, while every $1 billion spent on highway projects creates over 30,000 jobs. These are good-paying, “shovel ready” jobs that cannot by their nature be shipped overseas.
Federal infrastructure investments are also exceptionally good at leveraging private capital and state and local funding. As part of the President’s plan, the administration hopes to create an “Infrastructure Bank” that will focus on projects that will create the most jobs and leverage the most capital, ensuring that taxpayers are getting the most bang for their buck.
Finally, it was heartening to see in the President’s announcement that the administration plans to offset the cost of the new program by ending wasteful and unnecessary subsidies for big oil companies – an important goal addressed by the End Big Oil Tax Subsidies (EBOTS) Act I introduced in June. Companies like ExxonMobil will continue to rack up record profits without taxpayer support, and cutting these subsidies will help our country rebalance our infrastructure spending to reflect the need for better energy efficiency and smarter economic growth. Together with the shot in the arm that new infrastructure spending will provide to local economies and tax revenues, the total cost of the President’s program will be outweighed by its economic benefit.
This article was originally posted on The Infrastructurist, America Under Construction site on Wednesday, September 8, 2010 and is available here: http://www.infrastructurist.com/2010/09/08/rep-blumenauer-responds-to-obamas-infrastructure-proposals-guest-post/