21 Jan 2010, 10:48am
Gas taxes Laws and policies Roads
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Construction suppliers rally for new fed transpo bill

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Congress has yet to approve a new, comprehensive¬†surface transportation bill to replace the previous legislation (known as “SAFETEA-LU”)¬†that expired last year,¬†instead opting to keep it on life-support through a series of short-term extensions.¬† The resulting¬†lack of certainty over future funding– as well as limited funding in those extensions–¬†is severely crippling the construction industry, that according to several speakers at a noontime rally outside San Antonio’s convention center yesterday that attracted about 100 people.

The rally, held in conjunction with the Associated Equipment Distributors (AED) convention here, included remarks by local and national construction and equipment industry leaders as well as local state representative Jeff Wentworth and was intended to draw attention to the fact that the¬†depression in the construction industry is a huge drag on the national economy, not to mention the fact that it is delaying needed infrastructure improvements across the country.¬† Despite lofty claims, the federal economic stimulus program has actually¬†resulted in¬†minimal transportation infrastructure¬†spending– just 6% of stimulus funding has gone to transportation programs, about the equivalent of¬†half of one year’s typical¬†expenditures, and it was spread over two years.¬† The result is a nearly 23% unemployment rate in the construction industry.¬† In fact, although construction workers comprise only 5% of the US workforce, they represented 20% of layoffs last year.¬†¬†Furthermore, the¬†scarcity¬†of funding has meant that heavy machinery sales are down about 50%, resulting in layoffs of 37% of the workers who manufacture that equipment.¬† Overall, the industry has essentially been decimated with over¬†2.5 million jobs lost.

The message of the rally was clear– Congress’ plate is full with a variety of high-profile issues these days, but they need¬†to find time¬†to get a new transportation bill enacted quickly, and that bill needs to find a way to adequately fund our nation’s increasingly decaying infrastructure.¬† Now obviously the folks who organized this rally have a direct fiduciary interest in getting transportation funding committed and increased, but in reality,¬†we all¬†do.¬† Not only is the current funding dearth causing a demonstrable¬†drag on the economy,¬†it’s also causing billions of dollars worth of needed¬†transportation improvements as well as basic maintenance to go unfunded.¬† This certainly affects each and every one of us on a daily basis and has resulted in officials having to resort to other means to get projects built– namely tolling.

The one benefit to all this is that construction costs have plummeted in the past year, meaning that what projects are able to be funded are coming in cheaper than expected, which means there’s leftover money to do more work.¬† However, this is¬†a short-term benefit and ultimately balance needs to be restored.

Parade of construction equipment down Commerce St.

This was the fourth such rally nationally and it concluded with a loud parade of construction equipment down Commerce Street.

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