Former Gov. Rendell and Arizona mayor Scott Smith argue transportation spending is 'right stimulus'

As many proponents have argued, Rendell and Smith said that America is no longer a leader in transportation development as other countries have made investments the U.S. has not.

"Unfortunately, our position as the world leader in infrastructure has begun to erode after years of misdirected federal priorities," they wrote. "When it comes to transportation, Washington has been on autopilot for the last half-century. Instead of tackling the hard choices facing our nation and embracing innovations, federal transportation policy still largely adheres to an agenda set by President Eisenhower.

"To get our nation's economy back on track, we must develop a national infrastructure strategy for the next decade," they continued. "This policy should be based on economics, not politics."

The op-ed comes as Congress gears up to debate a new federal highway bill when lawmakers return from their traditional August recess. The current version of the bill, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) act, expires Sept. 30.

The House and Senate have each released drastically different versions of the proposed legislation. The House unveiled a six-year, $230 billion bill that would spend about $35 billion per year on transportation, while the Senate rolled out a two-year, $109 billion bill that would spend about $54 billion per year on roads and highways.

Advocates generally prefer the length of the House proposal and the dollar amount of the Senate's. 

Some observers are worried the differences between the competing proposals could make the issue the next to cause gridlock in Washington, jeopardizing the collection of the federal gas tax.

Despite their differences, both the House and Senate proposals are far smaller than the $556 billion President Obama called for investing in transportation at the beginning of the year.