Letter to Congress: Principles for Jobs Bill

America 2050 signed a letter this week to leaders in Congress proposing principles for transportation and infrastructure spending that could shape a potential jobs bill -- a prospect currently being discussed and debated on Capitol Hill.

If we're going to fund infrastructure investments to put people back to work, it's imperative that we get the most out of our precious dollars -- and stay on track for passing the long-term transportation bill we so desperately need to get America moving again.

Any plan to create jobs through transportation spending should:

  1. Create the greatest number of jobs in the quickest time possible by prioritizing rehabilitation and operation of existing infrastructure and target new workforce development opportunities for people most in need of employment. (i.e., "Fix-it-first.")
  2. Chart a new 21st century direction in transportation policy.
  3. Be limited to no more than a year and not replace the long term authorization of the transportation bill.
Click through the jump to read the full letter to the Speaker of the House.

Dear Speaker Pelosi,

We applaud your leadership in addressing America's economic challenges and your desire to address the nation's unemployment situation.  As organizations that understand how transportation spending both creates jobs and connects people to jobs, we believe any investments that are part of any short-term jobs package should follow three principles:

(1) Create the greatest number of jobs in the quickest time possible by prioritizing rehabilitation and operation of existing infrastructure and target new workforce development opportunities for people most in need of employment.
The rehabilitation and operation of existing roads, bridges, rail lines and transit systems are investments that have been proven to create more jobs and get projects underway in the shortest amount of time possible.  Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) that increase operating efficiency of all transportation systems are quick to implement and provide 50% of project costs as direct labor compared to 20% for new highway construction. And significant funding for transit and intercity bus operations in a jobs bill would allow hundreds of public transit agencies all across America to rehire workers and drivers immediately after a jobs bill is signed while reconnecting thousands of people to jobs.

A focus on workforce development would target new transportation construction jobs to the people who need them the most by dedicating one percent of all funding for apprenticeship and construction careers programs in the transportation sector and targeting 30 percent of all construction work hours to local, lower-income workers.

(2) Chart a new 21st century direction in transportation policy. Our federal transportation policy and programs are stuck in the past and are out of touch with a 21st century economy.  We urge a jobs bill to begin to chart a new direction in federal transportation policy by including significant funding for the new TIGER multi-modal discretionary grants program as established in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the TIGGER grants to green and modernize transit vehicles, new investments in new public transit (New starts and formula funding), high speed rail, intercity bus, intelligent transportation systems, and seamless networks of on-road bicycle and pedestrian facilities and trails.

Finally, in order for Congress to lay the groundwork for a new outcome-oriented direction in federal transportation policy in the upcoming legislation, we request a requirement be included for the US Department of Transportation to develop and, within nine months, report on new transportation performance measures to be incorporated into a subsequent [full] transportation authorization.

(3) Be limited to no more than a year and not replace the long term authorization of the transportation bill. Any short-term jobs package for transportation should be limited to no more than one year, providing a strong boost to the American economy in 2010, while making sure this Congress finishes its work on a longer-term transformational transportation authorization bill that can bring our nation's transportation policy and programs into the 21st century.

The economic challenges we face as a nation face are staggering.  Our organizations applaud your leadership on job creation and we look forward to supporting your efforts in enacting such critical legislation.

Respectfully,

Transportation for America
Reconnecting America (T4A Co-Chair)
Smart Growth America (T4A Co-Chair)
Amalgamated Transit Union
America 2050
America Bikes
American Bus Association (ABA)
Apollo Alliance
Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT)
The Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA)
Conference Of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO)
Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)
Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC)
The Federation of State Public Interest Groups (USPIRG)
Gamaliel Foundation
Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITSA)
LOCUS: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors
National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity
National Housing Conference (NHC)
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
Partnership for Prevention
PolicyLink
Rails to Trails National Conservancy (RTC)
Transportation Equity Network (TEN)
Alternatives for the Community and Environment (Massachusetts)
Transit for Livable Communities (Minnesota)