A letter sent to Congressional leaders on April 21 spearheaded by the Associated General Contractors of America backs up the recent call by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials to address the $756 billion highway and bridge investment backlog facing the United States.
[Above photo by the West Virginia DOT]
“We urge you to support AASHTO’s request to authorize $200 billion in highway and bridge stimulus in 2022 to be obligated through 2026 and drive down this unacceptable backlog,” AGC said in its letter. “We call on Congress to provide the necessary funding and flexibility to states and local communities to make this critical investment in America’s roadways for all of its people.”
The letter – co-signed by AASHTO and more than 70 transportation and construction industry groups – stressed that the nation’s highways played a critical role in helping the nation respond to the COVID-19 pandemic: moving critical health care workers to COVID “hot spots” around the country to support relief efforts, while maintaining the flow of groceries, medical supplies, and other essential goods.
“As we speak, these roadways are helping facilitate the mass distribution of vaccines to communities throughout the country,” AGC said in the letter. “America will overcome this pandemic, in part, because of past investment in our nation’s roadway system.”
Yet it also stressed that maintaining “flexibility” for states and local governments to serve the varying transportation needs of America’s communities is key to efforts to revitalize the nation’s roadway system.
“The transportation inequities faced by citizens living in urban areas are not the same as those living in rural parts of the country,” AGC said. “One-size-fits-all mandates on state and local communities limiting their ability to construct new highway capacity could stymie efforts to better connect disadvantaged communities and tribes to jobs, healthcare facilities, and schools, or to better link businesses in those communities to their markets.”
While the letter “recognized the need” to reassess the federal infrastructure priorities and support continued investment in transit and other modes of transportation, it remains “crucial” to provide states and local communities with “funding and flexibility” for essential road and bridge investments.
“The events of the past year highlight the proven value of investment in America’s roadways,” AGC said. “The nation’s highway system continues to be central to our broader transportation system, our safety and security, and serves as the backbone of our entire economy.”