WILMINGTON, Del. – Today, U.S. Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons (both D-Del.) joined stakeholders outside of AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Headquarters adjacent to I-95 and the Amtrak and SEPTA rail lines. Representatives from labor, business, transit, cyclists and more joined to discuss the critical need for a long-term transportation bill to fund critical infrastructure projects across the First State and the country.
On May 31, the current authorization of federal surface transportation programs will expire, leaving state and local governments on the hook for billions of dollars’ worth of projects that the federal government had promised to help fund. Congress has been unable to pass a long term transportation bill since 2012, leaving states and cities without the certainty they need to make smart investments in transportation infrastructure that would help to grow our economy and improve quality of life for millions of Americans. Last Thursday, Sen. Carper introduced a bill to extend the current authorization into July 2015 to give Congress the time to pass a multi-year bill. The bill also calls on the House and Senate to complete work on authorizing and funding a long-term surface transportation program as soon as possible.
“In the 10 months since the last short-term extension of the Highway Trust Fund, we’ve come no closer to a solution for providing the long-term funding that is desperately needed to support a multi-year transportation bill,” Sen. Carper said. “I will continue to push my colleagues in Congress to find a common-sense way to fund a long-term bill this summer. Our states, cities and businesses have waited long enough for the certainty they need to plan and execute the projects that will repair our aging infrastructure and strengthen our economy. Now is the time to act.”
“Ours has always been a nation on the move, and if we want to keep it that way, we need to avoid the Highway Trust Fund from running out of money,” said Sen. Coons. “Delaware has already delayed $600 million in infrastructure investments, and by doing this, we’re not only putting travelers at risk by prolonging improvements and repairs, but we’re also losing out on putting people to work with good, decent paying jobs that can strengthen the middle class. I look forward to getting back to Washington to push a funding mechanism that will help get funding for these infrastructure projects.”
Nearly 15 percent of Delaware’s roads and 20 percent of the First State’s bridges need major rehabilitation, repairs or replacement. Federal transportation programs make up an average of 52 percent of state transportation budgets. In Delaware, federal funds make up about 50 percent. Nationally, there are $1.8 billion worth of transportation projects at risk of cancelation due to lack of funding. Uncertainty surrounding the short and long-term fiscal condition of the Highway Trust Fund continues to have a significant effect on state transportation.
“AAA estimates the continued failure to act costs drivers an average of $324 annually in additional vehicle operating costs and 38 hours wasted in traffic each year,” said Cathy Rossi Vice-President of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic, which is headquartered in Wilmington. “Drivers are already paying a steep price for years of congressional inaction in the form of higher repair bills from hitting potholes and every hour they spend stuck in traffic is an hour lost in either productivity or with family and friends. Federal transportation programs make up about half of a state’s transportation budget which is why this bill is critically important to Delaware and other states– we need the federal money to fix our roads.”
“Drivers already are paying a steep price for years of congressional inaction in the form of higher repair bills, wasted fuel and lost time in traffic,” said Kathleen Bower, AAA vice president of public affairs. “We’re encouraged by last week’s introduction of a two-month extension through July, which will allow more time for both chambers to agree on a long-term transportation bill with sustainable and reliable funding.”
EDS: Photos from the event are available. Email Katie_Wilson@carper.senate.gov.