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Long Term Infrastructure Plan Vital To America's Job Growth

Posted Friday, November 4, 2011, at 2:07 PM

In an attempt to sell Americans on his second stimulus proposal, President Obama staged yet another campaign-style speech this week -- this time, in front of a Washington, D.C. bridge in need of repairs just like so many other bridges and roadways nationwide.

Unfortunately, what the President conveniently failed to mention during his speech is that these bridges aren't going to be replaced by the kind of short-term infusions of so-called "stimulus" dollars that he's calling for Congress to pass. Bridge replacements and other major infrastructure investments require many years of planning and steady long-term investments. In fact, according to a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), as many as 200 major steps are involved in developing a transportation project from the identification of the project need to the start of construction. The same report also notes that it typically takes between nine and 19 years to plan, gain approval of, and construct a new major federally-funded highway project.

But instead of working with Congress to develop a clear and comprehensive blueprint for our nation's transportation needs, President Obama continues to call for the same piecemeal approach that has yielded piecemeal results under his administration, leaving Americans with record federal debt and a national unemployment rate hovering around 9 percent.

There's no question that jumpstarting job growth is the top concern for families and job creators nationwide, and infrastructure has long been an integral part of our economy. Successful transportation systems connect people and communities, and small businesses rely on a strong infrastructure network to connect with their customers. If our country is going to compete in an increasingly global economy, we must work together in Washington to develop a long-term federal plan that explores innovative transportation ideas and provides a blueprint for our infrastructure systems nationwide -- not another short-term fix that simply kicks the can down the road and creates greater uncertainty for job creators.

Unfortunately, two years have passed since the last surface transportation reauthorization bill expired, and like so many Americans, I am concerned that the condition of our infrastructure is beginning to weigh on our financial future. Short-term extensions on transportation legislation are like fixing our roads and bridges with duct tape and super glue. While across our state, Missouri's leaders and business owners continue to express a strong need for more certainty in infrastructure planning so they can expand and attract new businesses. County commissioners, contractors, cities, and statewide departments of transportation need a comprehensive way forward so they can lay the groundwork to plan, assess local needs, hire more employees, and make the decisions necessary to encourage economic development.

Congress cannot continue to write blank checks to bureaucrats in the Obama Administration who don't understand the needs of individual states and communities. President Obama is not the best individual to decide where a new bridge or roadway should be built; local leaders in our states and communities are better equipped to make those decisions. If we're going to successfully build roads, bridges, airports, and other transportation systems like we have in the past, we need to work together to do the hard work required in order to develop a plan that moves America forward.

Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (Calif.) and the committee's Ranking Member U.S Senator James Inhofe (Okla.) have been working hard on putting together a new bipartisan reauthorization bill. I look forward to working with these and other colleagues who are working to lay the groundwork to create a new long-term approach that will improve our nation's infrastructure and help spur private sector job creation.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) is on the Appropriations Committee, where he serves as a member of the Subcommittee on Transportation and Housing and Urban Development Subcommittee. He also serves on the Commerce Committee, where he serves as ranking member of the Subcommittee of Competitiveness, Innovation and Export Promotion.

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U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) serves as a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations as well as the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
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