WASHINGTON, March 14 - The Senate today passed a two-year, $109-billion transportation funding bill that would provide $408 million for Vermont over the next two years. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, helped write the bill that was approved by a vote of 74 to 22.
"Anyone who drives around Vermont sees the need for transportation improvements," Sanders said. "Given the infrastructure crisis facing our country, it is imperative that we get to work as soon as possible and this bill is a good start," he said of the measure that now goes to the House.
The Senate-passed bill includes a Sanders amendment that allows a Federal Highway Administration emergency relief program to cover 100 percent of the cost of road repair in states recovering from extreme natural disasters. The provision could mean an estimated $20 million in additional funds for Vermont, where Tropical Storm Irene last August caused $185 million to $250 million in damage to roads and bridges.
Stressing the importance of a federal aid, Vermont Transportation Secretary Brian Searles has said that federal funds make up 80 percent of the budget for most road and bridge construction projects in Vermont.
The senator also said investments in roads and bridges are one of the most effective ways to create jobs. "It is estimated that this bill will save more than 1.8 million jobs nationwide in each of the next two years, and it will create a million new jobs through an expanded infrastructure-financing program. At a time when the construction industry is extremely depressed, this bill can put a lot of people back to work in Vermont and across the nation," Sanders said.
In Vermont, about one-third of Vermont's bridges are ‘structurally deficient or functionally obsolete,' and 36 percent of the federal-aid roads need major repairs. In fact, a national report recently ranked Vermont's rural roads the worst in the nation.
Nationwide, a greater investment in infrastructure also is needed. More than $2 trillion over five years is the minimum needed to get our roads, bridges, and transit to a "passable" condition, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.