Provide an immediate investment in our infrastructure

By John D. Dingell
I have long believed that we must make robust investments in our nation’s infrastructure to help our economy grow and ensure that the United States is positioned to compete in the global marketplace.

This is a win-win situation: infrastructure investment is a proven job creator and will also improve our system of roads, bridges and tunnels which was recently given a grade of “D” by the American Society of Civil Engineers. I believe public transportation must be part of efforts to address global warming and reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but we must not forget these efforts create jobs as well.

This is why I am a cosponsor of President Barak Obama’s American Jobs Act, which will immediately invest $50 billion in our highways, transit, rail and airports and put thousands of construction workers back on site, something our country desperately needs.

The American Jobs Act would positively impact Michigan workers immediately. Some have dubbed Michigan’s highways a “pothole paradise,” and anyone who drives in the state knows there is much work to be done to repair our roadways.

The president’s proposal would achieve this important goal by investing at least $901 million in Michigan roads, which would result in the creation of approximately 11,000 jobs. At a time when Michigan families are still struggling, we cannot pass up this opportunity. Put simply, the American Jobs Act means better roads and more jobs.

Congress also can promote job creation by reauthorizing long-term surface transportation programs, which I have long supported. Surface transportation programs include large-scale highway repair projects, public transit, and motor vehicle safety initiatives.

For far too long, Congress has kicked the can down the road by passing short-term program extensions, rather than giving stakeholders certainty by passing a long-term bill. If we do not soon pass a long-term bill and allow this law to expire, over 1 million construction workers will lose their jobs in the coming year. I am hopeful compromise can be reached on this vital issue so further jobs are not put at risk by inaction.

Finally, we need high-speed rail to make the United States more competitive, to attract and retain small business in our community, and to efficiently move people from one place to another. Helping reduce congestion in southeast Michigan improves road quality and the daily commute for Michiganders, and assists our communities with economic development, employer recruitment, and livability.

Additionally, the expansion of high-speed rail also will create construction jobs right here in Michigan. With my strong support, Michigan has been awarded over $400 million in federal funding for high speed rail development. This critical investment could not come at a better time, as passenger rail ridership is at an all time high, and southeast Michigan is one of the only major metropolitan regions in the nation without a major transit system. This funding will support a high-speed rail corridor from Detroit to Chicago, and will create 800 Michigan construction jobs.

The Detroit-Chicago high-speed rail corridor will eventually increase service frequencies from three to ten round trips, with commuter rail service between Ann Arbor to Detroit. This commuter rail will eventually support four round trips with station stops in Ann Arbor, Dearborn, Ypsilanti, Wayne/Westland (to serve Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport), and Detroit New Center. Developing high-speed rail is a top priority, and I will continue to work with my colleagues to obtain assistance from the federal government in order to move high-speed rail forward.

Investing in our transportation infrastructure is a common-sense way to enhance our nation’s roads and bridges while creating jobs at the same time. During these tough economic times, we must not turn our back on opportunities to create jobs, which these proposals would certainly do. The American people are still hurting and we need to create jobs in this country now.

I urge my colleagues to pass the American Jobs Act in order to provide an immediate investment in our infrastructure, and to come to the table this fall to begin work on a long-term surface transportation reauthorization.