WASHINGTON, June 24 – A Senate panel today advanced a six-year, $278 billion transportation funding bill that includes more than $1.3 billion for Vermont to maintain its road and bridges.
“It is no secret that our infrastructure is crumbling,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who helped draft the bill as a member of the transportation subcommittee. “One of every nine bridges in our country is structurally deficient and nearly a quarter are functionally obsolete. Almost one-third of our roads are in poor or mediocre condition.”
Sanders staved off proposals which could have resulted in steep cuts to Vermont’s funding. “My priority was to make sure Vermont continues to receive the federal resources it needs to improve our roads and bridges. I am very pleased this bill does just that.”
The bill would provide at least $1.33 billion in federal highway aid from 2016 through 2021 to repair our roads and bridges, an increase of seven percent.
The bill also includes several provisions authored by Sanders that would benefit Vermont, including: changes to make Vermont competitive for funding through a new program to support projects of regional or national significance; significant regulatory flexibility for rural roads; and lowering the cost of borrowing federal funds for rural projects. Another Sanders provision would start the process of creating a national network of recharging stations for electric vehicles.
The U.S. spends just 1.7 percent of its gross domestic product on infrastructure, less than at any point in the last two decades. Meanwhile, Europe spends close to twice our rate, and China spends close to four times our rate. “We must invest much more in infrastructure to keep America competitive in this global economy,” Sanders said.
The ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, Sanders noted that the spending blueprint pushed through the Republican-controlled Congress called for a 23 percent cut to transportation funding this year, and a 40 percent cut over 10 years. The measure that cleared a major hurdle in the public works committee instead modestly increases funding for our crumbling roads and bridges.
“While this bill is a step forward, I would prefer to go much further,” Sanders said. He cited studies by the American Society of Civil Engineers that say we must double the current rate of spending in order to get our roads, bridges and transit to a state of good repair over the next ten years.
“Moreover, at a time when real unemployment is near 11 percent, we need jobs and we need them now,” said Sanders. “We can fix our roads and bridges and put Americans back to work at the same time.”