U.S. Representative Pat Tiberi is the only Ohioan serving on the Conference Committee that is currently reviewing the House and Senate versions of the federal highway reauthorization bill. As member of the conference, he has the unique opportunity to shape legislation that will potentially deliver jobs to Ohio and facilitate transportation infrastructure improvements that will provide a long-term boost to the U.S. economy.
Despite the ongoing struggle to help stabilize the nation’s economic and employment outlook, Congress cut federal highway investment by $2 billion in the FY 2012 appropriations process. At time when Congress should be preserving and creating jobs in the transportation construction industry through highway investment, this major cut is having the exact opposite effect.
Fortunately, the reauthorization bill approved by the Senate would, among other things, restore this $2 billion cut and make purchasing power adjustments for the FY 2012 and FY 2013 federal highway investment levels. Under the Senate-approved bill, Ohio would regain more than $95 million in lost federal highway funds for this year, at a time we need them most.
Policy reforms such as increasing state flexibility and streamlining the environmental review process for transportation improvements are important. However, the highway investment levels will be the key deliverable in this bill. It is a simple fact that locking in a $2 billion cut in federal highway investment will endanger jobs in our state and further shrink the number of projects made available for construction. In fact, the Columbus Dispatch Biz Blogs notes that, ODOT’s Transportation Review Advisory Council will soon vote on a plan to push back Ohio’s major highway projects for up to 19 years.
The Conference Committee is striving to reach compromise before the current transportation authorization extension expires on June 30. Now is a very good time for each of us to contact Congressman Tiberi and encourage him to work to ensure the final conference report includes – at the very least -the highway investment levels called for in the Senate-passed bill.