Caller Times – Rebuilding our Infrastructure While Rebuilding our Economy

By February 7, 2012 Op-Eds No Comments

This week, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed the most significant job creating legislation Congress will consider this year – the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act. The whole House of Representatives should take this bill up in a matter of weeks. Republicans and Democrats agree infrastructure funding is one of the keys to a vibrant economy. With unemployment steadily above 8%, it is imperative that Congress pass this bill that meets our transportation needs, streamlines the process of building roads, bridges and other infrastructure and finds a fiscally responsible way to pay for it.

President Obama speaks about the role our nation’s infrastructure programs play in stimulating the economy and creating jobs. On this, he is right, increasing American energy production and rebuilding our infrastructure will create jobs, grow the economy and promote domestic energy production. The American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act does this.

The American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act changes the way Washington funds infrastructure projects by allowing the government to tap into the ingenuity and capital of the private sector. This federal-private partnership will leverage existing financial resources and encourage States to partner with private sector companies to finance and build new projects. Additionally, this bill will increase the availability of low interest loans for major transportation programs and will provide 5 years of funding stability, necessary for increased job creation.

This bill eliminates and reforms many outdated transportation programs. Highway bills of the past were riddled with earmarks which wasted federal money on special interest projects. This bill has NO earmarks. A 2005 highway bill had 6,300. It also returns more control to the States, and consolidates 100 agencies into 30.  All of these improvements are paid for with savings from less red tape, existing gasoline taxes, revenues from new oil and gas leases on federal land, and cuts to other federal spending. There are no tax increases in this legislation.

Also included in this bill is language making it easier to complete I-69, which allows parts of US 59, 77 and 281 to be signed as I-69, once they meet interstate standards. The Rio Grande Valley is the largest metropolitan area not currently served by an interstate highway. Extending I-69 will help promote economic growth and meet the needs of Texas ports after expansion of the Panama Canal.

The interstate highway network is just like a computer network. It increases in value the more nodes that are on it. The American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act makes sense for South Texas, and it makes sense for America. It creates jobs, reduces our dependence on foreign oil, improves our mobility and enhances our safety by updating and repairing our aging highways and bridges. The House will pass this soon, so must the Senate, and I urge President Obama to sign it. Jobs, Energy, Safety. This is a win for everyone.