Sen. Bernie Sanders said today that Congress should address a serious backlog of transportation projects in Vermont and around the nation.
Sanders is a member of the Senate public works committee that held a hearing on reauthorizing transportation programs.
"In my view, we should be creating millions of decent-paying jobs rebuilding our deteriorating infrastructure and making our economy more competitive," Sanders said. He called for a reinvestment in America. "Let's put Americans to work rebuilding our country from the bottom-up, in jobs that cannot be out-sourced or off-shored."
The American Society of Civil Engineers has said the United States should invest $2.2 trillion over the next five years to restore highways and bridges to a "passable" condition. The bill before the Senate would authorize $109 billion over two years.
"I see these infrastructure needs firsthand every time I return home," said Sanders, a former Burlington mayor. In Vermont, about one-third of the bridges are either "structurally deficient or functionally obsolete" according to the Federal Highway Administration.
The United States used to be a leader in transportation when it built a network of canals, a transcontinental railroad, the Interstate highway systems, and a robust network of regional airports. "These advances have been the envy of the world. Sadly, that is no longer the case, and I fear we are losing ground," Sanders said.
Today, the United States invests just 2.4 percent of its gross domestic product on infrastructure. Europe invests twice that amount. China invests almost four times our rate - roughly 9 percent of its GDP. On rail alone, the Chinese invested $186 billion from 2006 through 2009. Within two years China will open 42 new high-speed rail lines with trains that can reach speeds of more than 210 miles per hour. By 2020, China plans to add 26,000 additional miles of tracks for freight, 230,000 miles of new or improved roads, and 97 new airports.
"There is no question in my mind that if we hope to compete in the global economy, we must increase our investment in our transportation infrastructure," Sanders said.