The Senate public works committee has advanced a six-year, $265 billion transportation funding bill that includes almost $1.3 billion for Vermont to maintain its roads and bridges. “It is no secret that our infrastructure needs a lot of work,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, who helped draft the bill as a member of the transportation subcommittee. He cited studies showing that 32 percent of major roads in the United States are in poor or mediocre condition and 11 percent of all bridges are structurally deficient.
For Vermont, the bill adopted by the U.S. Senate panel last Thursday would provide at least $1.258 billion in federal highway aid from 2015 through 2020.
While the measure represents a major step forward, it still falls short of meeting the need. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, the rate of spending would have to double to get the nation’s roads and bridges to a “passable” condition by 2028. “We must invest much more in infrastructure to keep America competitive in this global economy,” Sanders said.
The bill includes a Sanders amendment that would make Vermont eligible to apply for additional funding through a new program to support projects of regional or national significance. Another Sanders provision would start the process of creating a national network of recharging stations for electric vehicles.
Moreover, Sanders noted that the United States has put itself at an economic disadvantage to other nations. The U.S. invests less than 2.5 percent of its gross domestic product each year on infrastructure. Europe invests twice as much. China invests almost four times the U.S. rate.
Investments in repairing crumbling roads, bridges, railroads and other infrastructure projects are not only badly needed, they also are one of the most effective ways to create jobs. Projects funded by the bill will support nearly 2 million decent paying jobs nationwide each year.
“Maybe I am old-fashioned, but I think we can improve our crumbling roads and make our bridges safer. We can – and we must – rebuild America; to create the jobs we desperately need and to make our economy stronger. My priority is to make sure Vermont continues to receive the federal resources it needs to improve our roads and bridges. This bill does just that.”