Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

Congress gets its act together to pass the FAST Act.

We can't believe it either, Ron.

After spending years kicking the can on infrastructure, Members of Congress finally got their act together on Thursday night and passed a long-term transportation funding measure.

The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act is a $300 billion bill that authorizes six years of projects. It’s the longest term highway bill in a decade, and now heads to the White House, where President Obama is expected to sign it.

While AAM would love to see additional funding given to our nation’s crumbling infrastructure — did we mention each $1 billion invested in infrastructure creates 21,000 new jobs? — this bill is a big step forward, and will provide a major boost to American manufacturing.

Domestic manufacturers will benefit from both an improved transportation system and from strong Buy America laws that were maintained in the measure. These vital provisions give U.S. companies and American workers the first shot at supplying the steel, iron, and manufactured products that will be used to build and repair America’s infrastructure. 

Considering the gridlock up on Capitol Hill these days, we’ve got to tip our hats to Members of Congress for working together to pass this thing. In particular, we want to give a shout-out to Reps. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) and Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.) for their leadership on the bill.

Inhofe and Boxer, the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a joint statement that the bill is “essential for jobs, for our safety by rebuilding our roads and bridges, and for our economic standing in the world.” Shuster, the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, called it “one of the most important measures this Congress will pass.” And DeFazio, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee ranking member, said the bill “provides our state and local governments with the certainty they need to begin to plan for long-term projects that bring our aging system into the 21st century.”

Before you pop the champagne, however, remember that this issue isn’t going away. While the FAST Act is indeed a step in the right direction, there is a $900 billion investment backlog for all forms of transportation infrastructure across the United States.

That’s why we’ll be looking to the 2016 presidential field for their infrastructure plans in the upcoming months. Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton already is out promoting her plan on the campaign trail, and her competitor Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) introduced a five-year, $1 trillion investment package earlier this year. On the GOP side, frontrunner Donald Trump has talked about the need for major infrastructure investment, although his specific game plan for getting the job done isn’t clear.

Stay tuned.