WASHINGTON, D.C., March 27 – Testifying at the invitation of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Vermont Agency of Transportation Deputy Secretary Sue Minter warned a Senate panel today that a looming shortfall in federal transportation funding could put people out of work in Vermont and “tip the balance of our fragile economic recovery.”
Projects slated for this construction season could be cancelled unless Congress acts soon to shore up the federal Highway Trust Fund, which is projected to be depleted by July.
“Reducing or eliminating transportation projects translates into job losses in the construction industry,” Minter told the Senate public works committee. “In a small state like ours, this can tip the balance on our fragile economic recovery.”
Minter, who led Vermont’s recovery after Tropical Storm Irene caused widespread destruction in 2011, also addressed the need to build roads and bridges designed to better withstand increasingly extreme weather events.
Sanders also said there is an urgent need for action. “We have heard in previous hearings how the sad state of our infrastructure has an economic cost. We have heard about the lost productivity and the impact on the efficiency and competitiveness of American businesses. We have heard how investing in infrastructure is critical for long-term economic growth. We know these things. The question is what this committee and what this Congress is going to do about it.”
The Highway Trust Fund, which relies almost entirely on gasoline taxes, has not kept pace with transportation funding needs as motorists drive less and more cars and trucks have improved fuel efficiency.
Last year, the American Society of Civil Engineers updated its “report card” on the condition of the nation’s infrastructure. While noting some progress, the report said much more work is needed. In Vermont alone, according to Minter, the state falls $240 million short each year on the amount needed just to maintain the existing system of roads and bridges.
A member of the public works committee, Sanders helped write the last federal transportation funding bill that has provided almost $464 million for Vermont for roads, bridges and transit projects.
To read Minter’s prepared testimony, click here.