Elected Leaders Should Take 45 Hours and Address Nation’s Infrastructure Needs
When it comes to statistics that can cripple an economy, there’s nothing stronger than this one from a leading transportation institute: the poor quality of the roads in the Boston-New Hampshire-Rhode Island region in 2010 cost drivers 45 hours of wasted time and nearly $1,000 in unnecessary upkeep on their vehicles. What that translates to for our economy is lost revenue and lost jobs.
Economic strength is determined by our ability to move people and goods efficiently throughout our region, from our ports to businesses. But in New Hampshire, the American Society of Civil Engineers gives a grade of C-minus to our roads, rail, and mass transit systems, and nearly one in every seven bridges here has been red-listed as out-of-date, inadequate, or not structurally functional or safe. How can we possibly expect to move $30 billion in commodities on our highways every year and compete with neighboring states?
The solution is simple. The federal surface transportation funding bill that expired in 2009 must be rewritten and renewed. Twenty-four percent of all funds for road and bridge construction, repair, and improvements comes from the federal government. That investment is critical to our economy’s success.
Infrastructure is the right kind of investment for government to make. It leverages the power and dollars of private partners, pays huge dividends in job creation, and allows an economy to grow. It is the same as every American family’s dream of investing in a home, growing a family there, and reaping the rewards when its value increases. Investing in our national network of highways and our rail system earlier in our history is what allowed businesses to thrive here.
However, in recent years, we have seen paralysis on this critical issue from our federal government. Instead of watching Washington kick the can down the road, as they did in 2011, dithering and debating rather than taking action, 2012 must be the year we focus on this critical need for infrastructure for our short-term needs and the long-term health of our state. New Hampshire ought to use its role as the first-in-the-nation presidential primary vote to demand that candidates running for president show America and its businesses that they understand the role infrastructure plays in freeing the private sector to prosper.
New Hampshire, and our entire country, need a 10-year plan focusing on our needs in transportation, water delivery, and energy conveyance. We need a plan that puts an end to excessive earmarks (a staggering $24 billion worth the last go-around), institutes accountability measures so we can easily track performance and success, and allows states the flexibility to use federal funding efficiently and engage in public-private partnerships.
New Hampshire leaders have partnered with Building America’s Future — a state-based coalition focused on infrastructure investment as a means of strengthening our economy. Formed by Arnold Schwarzenegger, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, the coalition has worked to communicate how investing in the building blocks that make our economy efficient will create jobs not only today but for future generations.
Business leaders and elected officials in New Hampshire are on the same page. In 2012, our challenge is to get Washington D.C. to buckle down and delivered a renewed plan for investing in our nation’s infrastructure — and thereby its economy — over the long-term.
Sherman Packard is a state representative from Londonderry and Chairman of the House Transportation Committee.