As the Senate tackles the economic stimulus bill this week, lawmakers are attempting to build more transportation project funding into the legislation. Additional highway funding and mass transit amendments will be debated in the next several days. The only funding amendment that passed in the House of Representatives last week was additional support for mass transit.

One of the best ways to get money into the hands of working people is to make sure there are good jobs with good wages. And by investing in our country’s transportation infrastructure, we not only put people to work, but also address critical needs.

·    State Departments of Transportation report there are $66 billion worth of “shovel-ready” highway and bridge projects. And nearly $16 billion in transit projects stand ready to meet the 90-day use-it-or-lose-it requirement.
·    For every $1 billion spent, as many as 47,000 jobs are created. The White House says that between 3 million and 4 million jobs are created or saved with this bill.
·    A national survey found that construction contractors hire employees within 3 weeks of obtaining a project contract. Two weeks later, paychecks start coming.

Increased fuel costs and declining state and local revenues that support transit mean that agencies are cutting service and eliminating jobs despite record ridership. Washington, DC’s Metro system has a $176 million budget gap that may lead to service cuts and eliminating 900 jobs. St. Louis, Missouri’s Metro system plans to cut nearly half its bus service and lay off 600 workers.

Last week, the nonpartisan American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) – which examines our transportation system – gave American infrastructure a near-failing grade.  The updated report said $2.2 trillion is needed over the next five years to bring our infrastructure into just “good” condition.

Transportation investments in the economic stimulus bill could be seen as a down payment on a multitrillion-dollar problem. But most importantly, it will pay huge dividends for jobless Americans and workers who know their jobs are at risk.