Testifying before a U.S. Senate Committee today, Gov. Peter Shumlin urged Congress to act quickly to replenish the Federal Highway Trust Fund so Vermont and other states can get to work repairing crumbling infrastructure. The Governor warned that in Vermont, projects relying on federal money need to go out to bid next month in order to begin construction in the spring. Failure of Congress to act could put at risk those badly needed projects and the jobs that go with them.
The Governor was joined by Republican Gov. Robert Bentley from Alabama in a bipartisan show of support for continued transportation infrastructure funding from Congress. Vermont alone relies on roughly $300 million each year in funding from the Federal Highway Trust Fund, which will become insolvent in May if Congress fails to act.
“Our nation’s economic prosperity depends upon a reliable transportation system to efficiently move people and goods,” Gov. Shumlin said in written testimony submitted to the Committee. “Governors across this nation understand that infrastructure is fundamental to our economic competitiveness and job growth. We make that connection every day as we travel around our states and talk to our citizens and employers.”
In his testimony, the Governor pointed to the negative effect transportation infrastructure disruptions can have on jobs and the economy, citing the devastation caused by Tropical Storm Irene, which damaged 500 miles of roads and bridges throughout the state, and the sudden emergency closure of the Lake Champlain Bridge in 2008, which caused serious transportation problems for Vermonters in that region.
Federal funding has helped Vermont make significant progress improving its transportation infrastructure in the past few years. In 2008, Vermont ranked near the bottom of all states – 45th in the nation – for numbers of structurally deficient bridges. By 2013 the state ranked 28th. The overall percentage of structurally deficient bridges has declined from 19.7 percent in 2008 to just over 7 percent in 2014. And the percentage of pavement rated in very poor condition has declined from a high of 36 percent in 2008 to only 13 percent in 2014.
The Governor testified before the before U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and was introduced by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders who sits on that committee. Sen. Sanders has been influential in pushing Congress to act to fund transportation infrastructure investments and recently introduced a bill to rebuild America’s crumbling network of roads, bridges, transit systems, and other infrastructure projects. The five-year plan would invest $1 trillion in the effort and create or maintain at least 13 million decent-paying jobs.
“In Vermont and across our country we have roads and bridges that are in desperate need of repair,” Sen. Sanders said. “That is why I have introduced legislation to invest $1 trillion to modernize our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. I look forward to working with Gov. Shumlin and my colleagues in Congress to pass legislation to rebuild our state and national infrastructure.”