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Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

State forced to cancel $400 million in projects due to federal transportation funding uncertainty.

Quick — do you know when the last time was that Congress passed a long-term transportation infrastructure funding bill?

The answer is 2005, the same year YouTube launched, for a little perspective. Congress instead has passed a series of short-term bills to maintain status quo funding. And as we’ve mentioned here on the ol’ blog plenty of times, Congress’s inability to pass a long-term infrastructure investment plan is making America less competitive on the global stage.

But all those short-term funding measures also are having an impact on states, which have been forced to delay or even cancel much-needed transportation infrastructure projects because of federal funding uncertainty. Don’t just take our word for it — we’ll let Tennessee Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner John Schroer explain.

Schroer wrote to members of the Tennessee legislature on Oct. 24, asking them to influence the Volunteer State’s congressional delegation “in developing long-term transportation funding legislation [that] will further our goal of planning, building, maintaining, and operating a modern transportation network that supports a strong an[d] vibrant economy.”

Federal funding is essential to state-level transportation projects. But without a full fiscal year's funding for transportation infrastructure, Schroer’s department has scaled back on future contracts. Tennessee DOT delayed 12 projects that were ready for construction, and 21 ready for Right of Way acquisition because of funding uncertainty. Schroer writes:

These projects… represent almost $400 million in transportation investments that could be helping to modernize our transportation network and reducing congestion and making Tennessee a more attractive destination for economic expansion. Our competition in the developing markets of China, India, and Brazil, among others, is making the investments in infrastructure that we are not making that will ultimately impact our ability to be economically competitive on the world stage.

Fully funded infrastructure investment could support more than 23,000 jobs in Tennessee. But by maintaining the status quo, the U.S. Congress has essentially handcuffed the state, preventing it from implementing the projects it knows it needs — and knows will lay the groundwork for economic growth.

Of course, Tennessee isn’t alone in this fight. America’s infrastructure — from our roads and bridges to our ports and railways and even our pipelines — desperately needs work. By not acting, we’re leaving up to 2.5 million jobs on the table.

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