Highways, Not Health Care

Rod Sutton, Editor in Chief | September 28, 2010


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We're sidetracked. If this country's economy were a train, we'd be banking the furnace waiting for an opportunity to start rolling again.

The health-care debate threatens to derail the job growth that an economic recovery promises. Instead of dismantling and repairing a system that works for the vast majority of citizens, our national leaders should be working on the next great stimulus program, the next jobs bill: The Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act.

We find it ironic, given the debates on health care, that the first "cost of decades of underinvestment" is fatalities and injuries due to bad roads and bridges. According to the blueprint put forth by the House's Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, 42,500 people are killed each year and 2.5 million people are seriously injured in more than 6 million motor-vehicle crashes, which are now the leading cause of death of children and young adults ages 3 to 34.

Take a second to absorb that number, and the ages of the victims. These are our future generations, the workers for whom we're trying to create jobs. The workers who will pay the taxes to keep this country free and great.

Now consider the task ahead of us, again from the House Committee's report:

  • Almost 61,000 miles (37 percent) of all lane miles on the National Highway System are in poor or fair condition;
  • More than 152,000 bridges — one of every four bridges in the United States — are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.

The current stimulus bill was supposed to help with infrastructure; the truth is it's not making a dent. "Shovel-ready" projects won't help our transportation needs because these bridge and road projects take a couple of years to execute once funded.

The Senate and House reconvene Sept. 8; the current bill expires two weeks later. Let's unite to help our representatives focus on something positive for the economy and for the nation's future: a highway bill. Ask them to tackle this and solve it now.

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