Committee on House Transportation and Infrastructure's James L. Oberstar

The Next step to recovery
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided the first test of Congress’ and the Obama Administration’s willingness to put words into action about a renewed commitment to investing in the nation’s surface transportation infrastructure. The Recovery Act is doing its job. Now we must look to the next step in America’s economic rebound.
The Recovery Act provided $8.4 billion in federal transit funding, including $6.9 billion in transit capital assistance grants for both urban and rural areas, $750 million for New Starts grants and $750 million in transit Fixed-Guideway Modernization formula funds.

The Federal Transit Administration has now published formula apportionments, discretionary allocations, or notices of funding availability for the entire $8.4 billion total. FTA has announced almost 90 percent of its Recovery Act funds through 685 grants in all 50 states, five territories and the District of Columbia.

The Recovery Act additionally required that at least one-half of all transit formula funds be obligated within 180 days of the date of apportionment. I am pleased to report that all states and local communities have met this requirement.

These investments in public transit will generate $34 billion of economic activity, and create more than 262,700 direct, family-wage jobs.

A second effect of stimulus dollars is that it will increase the livability of our communities and the energy efficiency of our transit systems nationwide. The Recovery Act set aside $100 million for a new discretionary grant program to support transit capital projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy use. FTA has already awarded 100 percent of these energy-efficiency grants to fund such projects.

The Recovery Act was just an initial step toward creating jobs and livable communities. In order to transform our nation’s transportation programs and build upon the job opportunities created by the Recovery Act, we must pass a long-term transportation bill, and do so now.

The Surface Transportation Authorization Act of 2009, crafted by the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, would invest $450 billion in the nation’s multi-modal surface transportation network, providing long overdue investments in the nation’s highways, bridges and transit systems to bring them into a state of good repair. It would begin to address the growing investment gap in the nation’s infrastructure that has been identified by nearly every independent analysis.

Passing this bill will also improve public health and safety, foster livable communities, relieve congestion, ensure U.S. competitiveness, address global climate change, and renew our commitment to energy independence and environmental stewardship. Most importantly, the investments made by this authorization will create or sustain six million well-paying jobs.

A transformational six-year surface transportation authorization will build upon earlier bold efforts to help the nation recover from this historic economic recession. This authorization would put Americans to work rebuilding the backbone of the nation’s economy and laying a solid foundation for long-term economic growth and prosperity.

The Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure is working to turn this vision into reality.

Rep. James L. Oberstar is arguably the top expert on transportation issues in Congress. His experience dates back to 1963, when he joined the staff of Rep. John Blatnik, a member of what was then the Committee on Public Works. Elected to Congress in 1974, Oberstar has served on what is now the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for 35 years, and is the key architect of the $450 billion, six-year surface transportation authorization bill now pending in Congress.