Sanders Outlines Transportation Agenda at UVM Summit

BURLINGTON, December 8 -- Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today told a summit meeting on transportation at the University of Vermont that an aggressive economic recovery package could help rebuild the nation's crumbling roads and bridges.

"A great nation and a strong economy cannot exist alongside a crumbling infrastructure. We have ignored our infrastructure for too long, and we have swept our problems under the rug. Now is the time to address them," Sanders said.

Congress is expected to take up an economic recovery package in January that Sanders said should total at least $400 billion for each of the next two years. The Vermont congressional delegation has requested suspending state and local matching funds for road and bridge projects.

In Vermont alone, Sanders said, an additional $1 billion is needed over the next five years just to keep our bridges and roads in the same shape they are in today. If transportation spending in Vermont stayed flat, he added, almost half of the pavement in this state will be listed as in "very poor condition" within five years.

"The good news is that Congress and the Obama administration are waking up to the needs of our transportation infrastructure. As you all know there is an excellent chance that we will see a large stimulus or economic recovery package very shortly. This program will create millions of new jobs as we rebuild our roads, sidewalks, bridges, culverts, mass transportation, water systems, broadband systems and our schools," Sanders said.

Congress must also address future transportation needs, he said, including mass transit and rails.

"One of the areas that we have got to look hard at is public transportation, particularly for rural America where it is virtually non-existent…The federal government must do its part to make sure that transit service is widely available by providing more capital and operating funds to rural providers.

"There also has to be a new emphasis on rebuilding our aging rail system - both passenger and cargo. For too long, the United States has fallen behind Europe, Japan and many other nations. In a global economy, we must do better than that.

"Addressing transportation needs also presents an opportunity to curb global warming. The transportation sector today is the source of 25 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and an even greater share in Vermont. Sanders called for incentives and new funding to help assist state and local policymakers in creatively reducing our carbon footprint.

"Vermonters have always been innovative in finding solutions to the problems facing rural America. We need that kind of thinking nationally now as we try to bring our transportation system to the 21st century," Sanders concluded.

For a transcript of the senator's prepared remarks, click here.