WASHINGTON, D.C. — As Vice President Joe Biden prepares to visit an infrastructure project in Cleveland on Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) called for a bipartisan approach to fixing America’s highways and bridges. The Vice President’s trip to discuss infrastructure investment comes as the deadline for Congress to pass critical highway funding fast approaches. Last week Brown called on Congress to pass a long-term transportation bill. Unless the federal transportation bill is reauthorized, critical road and bridge repairs in Ohio will be delayed and thousands of construction jobs will be at risk.
“Infrastructure investments helped attract the workers, business, and investments that made America a superpower,” Brown said. “However for far too long we have sat by and watched it crumble. By rebuilding our bridges and roads we strengthen our nation’s economic competitiveness, bolster our local communities, and ensure thousands of hardworking Ohioans remain on the job rebuilding our country. The Vice President’s visit to Ohio underscores the importance of passing a long-term infrastructure bill.”
According to recent reports, funding for highway projects may slide into insolvency ahead of the October 1, 2014 deadline for extending the current law. In 2012, Congress passed MAP-21, a two-year version of the highway that included a number of reforms intended to speed up construction while funding highway programs at previously authorized levels— of roughly $50 billion per year. Without reauthorization, the more than 100,000 Ohio jobs tied to building and maintaining Ohio’s transportation infrastructure are in jeopardy.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, Ohio has more than 2,200 bridges are currently deemed “structurally deficient” by the Federal Highway Administration. These bridges – located in all 88 counties – depend on funding from the highway bill for critical improvements and upgrades.
Brown was joined last Wednesday by Chris Runyan, President of the Ohio Contractors Association (OCA) to discuss the importance of passing a long-term transportation bill. The OCA is the main industry association in Ohio representing more than 500 contractors involved in the construction and maintenance of highways, bridges, and other utility projects in Ohio.
“Transportation impacts the life of every citizen in Ohio and in this nation,” Chris Runyan, President of the Ohio Contractors Association, said. “Whether working directly in the industry that maintains and constructs our transportation network; or at work in a job that relies on having high quality transportation access; or if you are a person that needs your groceries in the store, a TV in your living room and a convenient ride into work, you must be aware of how vital the federal role is in providing that service you so desperately need. To have that role diminished because of lack of funding would be a monumental loss to the economic engine that propels our economy and plays a major factor in our quality of life. Congress and the Obama administration need to act and act now to secure the funding that keeps all of our transportation modes well-maintained and available to meet the needs of each one of us.”
Last month, Transportation for America – a leading transportation think tank – released a report detailing the amount of federal dollars each state and metro area will be forced to forgo if action is not taken. In Ohio, nearly 59 percent of Ohio’s capital budget for transportation projects comes from federal highway dollars. Without these critical federal resources, state and local governments face critical shortfalls in addressing improvement projects and structural upgrades to local bridges and roads.
Brown has been an outspoken advocate for increased domestic investment in our nation’s infrastructure. In 2011, Brown announced new legislation that would create a National Infrastructure Bank to provide loans and loan guarantees for critical infrastructure projects—like Cincinnati’s Brent Spence Bridge—of national importance that increase economic competitiveness, bolster exports, and encourage investment. The bank would also allow federal financing to be coupled with other sources of private debt and private equity to fund these projects; this would serve as an added incentive for private sector participation in project financing. Every $5 billion in infrastructure investments leverages an estimated $50 billion.