December 7, 2009
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Congress: Urgent Need for More Public Transit Investment; APTA: Any Jobs Bill Should Include Transit Projects
There was much activity on Capitol Hill this week as two Congressional committees held press conferences focused on public transportation and opportunities for job creation, and as Congress began to discuss the possibility of a second round of stimulus funding, with the target almost solely to create jobs. APTA participated in both press events on Dec. 2, spotlighting how investment in transportation results in jobs, and citing a survey that called for investing $15 billion in public transportation to support and create hundreds of thousands of jobs and stimulate the economy.
Dec. 2 Capitol Hill Press Conferences
In a press conference held Dec. 2 on Capitol Hill, Reps. James Oberstar (D-MN), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee, and Peter A. DeFazio (D-OR), chairman of the T&I Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, underscored the good news about transportation and American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding.
Because of the legislation, Oberstar said, “People are off the unemployment rolls and on the payrolls. They’re getting their health insurance reinstated and they’re paying federal taxes. They’re leaving behind a long-term investment for the American driving public. We need to sustain and extend this investment.”
Oberstar continued: “It is our opportunity, our necessity, and our urgency to invest in jobs and be prepared to move on a longer-term authorization for the benefit of the country.”
DeFazio echoed these statements, saying: “The message we need to send is what we did in the stimulus. We have a proven track record and can do it again with projects that will have a more sustained impact on the economy.”
On the Senate side, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, held a press conference the same day to announce her support for two reports. The first, from APTA, pointed to more than $15 billion in public transportation capital projects that can be started in 90 days, and the other, from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, identified 9,500 highway, bridge, transit, port, rail, and aviation projects worth more than $69 billion that, if funded, can be used to create hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country.
“We know these highway and public transit projects are job creators,” said Boxer. “Jobs are where we need to concentrate on this economy recovery.” She added: “This effort is immediate job creation, and that’s what we need to have right now.”
APTA Calls on Congress to Invest $15 Billion in Public Transit
As part of its continuing effort to demonstrate the connection between job creation and public transit, APTA called on Congress to invest that $15 billion.
APTA’s survey estimated that this investment would support and create more than 450,000 jobs. According to the Economic Impact of Public Transportation Investment, a report completed this fall by the Economic Development Research Group, every $1 invested in public transportation generates an average of $4 in economic returns, along with nearly $3.6 billion of business sales and nearly $500 million in federal, state, and local tax revenues.
“Let’s get Americans back to work,” said APTA President William Millar. “It is essential that a jobs bill include public transportation investment to create good-paying jobs for Americans.”
Millar continued: “There’s no doubt that new federal funding for public transportation will create and maintain much-needed jobs. Funding public transit should be a priority since it helps local economies while also supporting our developing green economy.”
Job Creation Proposal
Directly related to the discussion of transit and job creation, Oberstar and Rep. David Obey (D-WI), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, crafted a proposal to provide more than $100 billion in highway and public transit spending from the U.S. Treasury’s general fund. This money would require a two-year suspension of any new Highway Trust Fund obligations, during which general fund appropriations would replace and supplement contracting authority.
On the eve of the White House Forum on Jobs and Economic Growth, Oberstar and DeFazio sent a letter to President Barack Obama saying: transportation projects create family-wage jobs and can create them quickly.
The letter said, in part: “We write to emphasize the need to increase investment provided by highway and transit formula programs as a way to create and sustain family-wage jobs, contribute to our nation’s long-term economic growth, and help the United States recover from the worst recession since the Great Depression.”
The two chairmen pointed to data collected by the T&I Committee on the progress so far under ARRA, noting that nearly 7,900 highway and transit projects throughout the country have created or sustained more than 210,000 direct, on-project jobs, as well as hundreds of thousands of indirect jobs, in the past nine months.
Additional Advocacy Efforts
As part of its efforts on behalf of job creation, APTA—in conjunction with The Transportation Construction Coalition and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce-based Americans for Transportation Mobility—placed an ad in The Washington Post and several Capitol Hill publications that emphasizes how public transportation projects will provide work for Americans.
Further, while the APTA Legislative Committee held meetings in Washington last week, APTA arranged for committee members to participate in a series of radio and media tours of nearly a dozen communities that reinforced the connection between the industry and employment.
APTA President William Millar, far left, presents an APTA compendium of ARRA public transportation projects to legislators at an event in Washington, DC, to highlight the 252,000 jobs in public transit that are being created and supported with the passage of ARRA. He joins, from second from left, Reps. John Garamendi (D-CA); Peter DeFazio (D-OR); and James Oberstar (D-MN); and AASHTO Executive Director John Horsley.
Photo by Jim Berard/House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure