The Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee began debate on reauthorization of SAFETEA-LU with a hearing Jan. 26 on “Transportation’s Role in Supporting Our Economy and Job Creation.”
Bill Dorey, former president of Granite Construction Co., represented the Associated General Contractors of America and joined American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials President Susan Martinovich, as well as a labor representative and a representative from the freight transportation industry in discussing the need to enact a long-term highway and transit bill soon.
EPW Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) opened the hearing and said that short-term extensions of the programs undermine efforts by state DOTs to address long-term planning and she is committed to getting a well-funded, long-term bill passed. Other Senators at the hearing concurred with that sentiment.
The witnesses all pointed out the unemployment situation in the construction industry and said that investment in transportation infrastructure can address the immediate need to create jobs while addressing the country’s economic growth goals. Dorey said he does not support federal spending just to create jobs but that, in the case of infrastructure investment, job creation is an additional benefit received from addressing pressing needs.
Ranking Republican Jim Inhofe (Okla.) said he has been identified as the No. 1 conservative in the Senate, and believes in reducing government spending, but he supports infrastructure investment because of the long-term return on investment it generates. He also said he wants the committee to focus on eliminating unnecessary programs and red tape to make better use of limited Highway Trust Fund revenues. Many of the Senators reported on the benefits that have accrued to their states as a result of federal transportation investment.