Time for Congress to get out of the Ditch and Pass a Long-Term Highway Bill
The economy of our region can move forward when products aren’t stuck in park. Businesses in Grays Harbor rely on adequate transportation infrastructure to be able to get their goods to market and to succeed. I hear that whether I’m visiting Aberdeen’s Pacific Veneer, which manufactures and ships softwood laminate and plywood nationwide or at Ocean Spray, a business that sends cranberries from bogs in Grayland to customers around the world.
But it’s hard for Pacific Veneer, Ocean Spray, and others to get their goods to market if they are stuck in traffic, if trucks are impeded by potholes, or if bridges get shut down due to safety concerns.
We saw this kind of economic impact a couple of years ago when the I-5 Bridge over the Skagit River went down. The reality is, that could happen here.
The Heron Street Bridge has been pegged as structurally deficient and at-grade rail crossings must be installed to ensure goods keep freight mobility on track in our region. $20 million is required to upgrade the Chehalis River and Wishkah River bridges. Some estimate that it will take another $30 million dollars simply to fix up our streets.
Those are some astonishing numbers. But here’s another: 34.
Congress has now voted 34 times for short-term highway funding bills. Instead of passing a Highway Funding Bill every 6 years like Congress used to do, Congress has been using duct tape – plugging in three months of funding at a time.
Rather than acting like adults and addressing this issues in a way that provides stability for governments and contractors and better deals for taxpayers, Congress has now kicked the can down the road . . . 34 times!
Dealing with these challenges in an adult manner isn’t easy. In fact, highway funding has gotten more complicated as greater fuel-efficiency in our cars and trucks has eaten into the traditional source of transportation revenue – the gas tax. That said, there are a variety of ideas targeted at addressing this.
For example, there’s been bipartisan support for a proposal to bring tax dollars that American corporations have overseas, home to invest in our roads and rails. Currently, there are $2 trillion worth of foreign profits held by U.S. corporations overseas. If we can bring those dollars home, put them to work on building roads, fixing bridges, and enhancing our rail system, our economy will benefit.
In addition, I’ve joined a bipartisan group of my colleagues in sending a letter to the Democratic and Republican leadership of the House to send a clear message: no more short-term gimmicks. Let’s solve this problem.
There are so many folks impacted by this.
When I met with Lakeside Industries in Aberdeen earlier this year, they asked for some sense of certainty about where highway funding was headed so they could have greater predictability regarding manpower and materials purchasing.
When I visited with local elected officials at the Grays Harbor Council of Governments, they asked about the availability of federal funding to deal with local road problems. They want clarity so they can plan and use taxpayer resources more efficiently.
And when I met with local manufacturers, they wanted to know that they could get their products to market more expeditiously.
Congress needs to take action to provide predictability, stability, and better infrastructure.
Our transportation system has to move forward. But that means our Congress has to move forward. It’s well-past time to pass a long-term transportation bill. Grays Harbor needs it, America needs it, and Congress needs to get it done.