[As posted by Ed Wytkind on National Journal’s Transportation Experts Blog]
It is ironic that the Republican Study Committee’s proposal to slash vital transportation investments was unveiled on the very day that we learned that Americans spend as many as 70 hours – or nearly 3 solid days – a year stuck in traffic. The Texas Transportation Institute’s national study also revealed that congestion wastes 3.9 billion gallons of fuel and costs $115 billion nationwide on an annual basis. If passed, the RSC’s proposals will add to the woes of commuters and travelers and destroy good jobs.
Their proposal to slash investment and eliminate jobs was also offered on the day that a national poll reminded us that the public’s clear priorities are the economy and jobs. The Pew Research Center poll reveals a public that wants answers to its unemployment problem. Despite the fact that this new Congress that was sent to Washington to fix the economy and create jobs, this opening salvo would only make these problems worse.
Hundreds of thousands of jobs would be eliminated by the proposed cuts to transportation programs alone – at a time when nationwide unemployment struggles to stay below 10 percent. These proposed cuts – to mass transit development, Amtrak, high speed rail, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, the Essential Air Service program, and more – would deal a major blow to millions of Americans who want more transportation choices, not fewer.
Approximately 85 percent of all transit agencies across the country have been forced to cut service, raise fares, lay off employees, or all three during this economic downturn. Slashing funding for transit development – and for service in the Washington region – means that public transportation will struggle even more to provide the service that Americans want and need.
Amtrak is a public service that provides transportation to millions and employs hard-working people in every state in the country. If enacted, these cuts would bankrupt passenger rail service in America and add 20,000 men and women to the unemployment lines.
High speed rail is in the process of ushering in a new era of passenger transportation in America. It will help to keep America competitive in an increasingly global economy. Cutting this investment in America’s transportation future means saying ‘no’ to progress, ‘no’ to competitiveness, and ‘no’ to jobs.
The public grows weary of transit service cuts, delayed expansion and modernization of airports, air traffic control and rail systems, deteriorated and traffic-choked highways and bridges, and underinvestment in port and maritime systems that are crucial to an aggressive export agenda. With the proposed repeal of prevailing wage requirements on federally funded construction projects, the wages of transportation construction workers will be eroded. And the proposed massive cuts to state aid will make it virtually impossible for states to fund their share of transportation programs and other vital services.
Elected officials on both sides of the aisle have always fought to ensure America remains a world leader in passenger and freight transportation. It is our sincere hope that bipartisan leadership will dismiss these reckless proposals and focus the time and energy of Congress on ways to fix and modernize our transportation system and put Americans back to work in good jobs.
You can’t boost the economy and create jobs by bankrupting the programs that support our transportation system and infrastructure. And politicians will not solve federal and state budget challenges by destroying thousands of private and public sector jobs.