San Francisco, CA – October 30, 2008 – (RealEstateRama) — U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, held a press conference today to call for major investments in America’s infrastructure to create jobs and restore the economy. Prepared text of her remarks follows.
The Need for Infrastructure Investment to Support a Dynamic Economy and Create Jobs in a Time of Recession
SENATOR BARBARA BOXER
San Francisco, California
October 29, 2008
(Remarks as prepared for delivery)
Today we face tremendous challenges as a nation. The financial meltdown is threatening Americans’ economic security. Millions of Americans have lost their homes to foreclosure or their jobs to the economic downturn.
At the same time, the bridges, highways, and other critical infrastructure that we need to keep our economy moving are in need of investment. Collapsing bridges, crumbling highways, and failing levees have all been in the headlines recently.
I believe these challenges represent real opportunities, not just to rebuild America’s infrastructure, but also to jumpstart our economy. By addressing these challenges in the right way, we can create jobs, help American families, and address the needs of communities across the country.
The Department of Transportation estimates that every $1 billion of Federal investment in transportation supports approximately 35,000 U.S. jobs.
The overall unemployment rate in September was 6.1 percent, while unemployment among construction workers was 9.9 percent. In California, the unemployment rate is 7.7 percent. We are in a recession – the question is how deep and how long a recession it will be.
The good news is that we can start addressing these infrastructure and job challenges right away, as many projects are ready to go.
According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, there are more than 3,000 ready-to-go highway projects worth an estimated $18 billion that could be under contract within 90 days. Those projects alone could support more than 600,000 jobs.
Nearly 900,000 private sector jobs have been lost since last January. These new jobs can reverse the trend.
Here in California, the Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has identified over 20 highway projects that are ready-to-go and total over $730 million.
According to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) there are more than 970,000 experienced construction workers who are currently unemployed.
Based on a survey ARTBA conducted, one in four construction companies is operating at 75 percent of their capacity or less and only 5 percent are operating at full capacity. Construction companies could easily handle an increased volume of work if funds were provided for additional transportation projects.
Spending targeted to infrastructure will create jobs here in America that cannot easily be exported. Construction would be occurring here in the U.S. and would utilize materials made primarily here in the U.S., such as aggregates, construction machinery, asphalt, and cement.
The advantage of investments in transportation construction and allied spending is the rapid pace that it can be spread through the economy and to a broad spectrum of jobs.
Infrastructure is critical to America’s quality of life. Infrastructure investments enhance the productivity of business and individuals. Failing to invest contributes to the disruptions that steal our time and undermine our competitiveness. Inefficient transportation is a drag on the economy.
According to the Texas Transportation Institute, “traffic congestion continues to worsen in American cities of all sizes, creating a $78 billion annual drain on the U.S. economy in the form of 4.2 billion lost hours and 2.9 billion gallons of wasted fuel.”
California cities rank high on the list of most congested areas – in fact, San Francisco-Oakland ties with Washington, DC, for the number 2 spot. The Los Angeles area is number one on the list.
We have much to gain by addressing transportation needs in California. As Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, I have made it a top priority.
It is also clear the need is great throughout the country.
The report of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission states that we need to invest a minimum of $225 billion annually over the next 50 years at all levels of government to bring our existing surface transportation infrastructure to a good state of repair and to support our growing economy. Combined, our states, our cities and the federal government are currently spending 40% less than that amount.
Let’s start now — rather than simply provide rebate checks, let’s create jobs for needed priorities. And these jobs would be created in the private sector.
And how about the state of our bridges? We need to have a special push to fix them.
The collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis over a year ago highlighted the critical need in this area.
My Committee approved legislation that would make significant improvements to the Federal Highway Bridge and Bridge Inspection programs. This legislation also authorized an additional $1 billion for replacement and rehabilitation of structurally deficient bridges.
Unfortunately, some of my Republican colleagues have blocked this important legislation from being approved by the Senate. They should step back and join us in approving this bill.
And we must also shore up our nation’s water infrastructure.
The Clean Water Act, America’s landmark law to help clean and protect our waters, authorizes the principal federal program to help our communities improve water quality. It provides funds to states to help local governments build and improve municipal wastewater treatment plants—the State Revolving Fund (SRF) program.
However, according to EPA estimates, our national need for investment in water and wastewater infrastructure through the SRF continues to far outpace the amount of funding that is available. Approximately $202.5 billion is needed for Clean Water Act assistance to local wastewater utilities. In California alone, the wastewater investment needs total over $14 billion.
Similarly, we must invest $276.8 billion over 20 years to improve and protect our drinking water infrastructure to ensure our families have the safe, healthy drinking water they need and deserve.
That is why I was proud to work with my colleagues on legislation to provide a $37 billion boost to our drinking water and wastewater infrastructure—the Water Infrastructure Financing Act. As Chairman, I moved this bill through my Committee this year, and reported that legislation to the Senate floor for consideration. Hopefully this bill will move toward passage early next year.
Additional investment in our nation’s water infrastructure is more than just an investment in America’s public health and safety—it is also supports jobs in communities across the country.
I also want to tell you about an important victory for our nation’s infrastructure this Congress—enactment of the Water Resources Development Act of 2007 (WRDA)—the first WRDA enacted in 7 years. We were able to successfully override President Bush’s veto of this measure, which includes protections for New Orleans and other areas hit so hard by Hurricane Katrina.
WRDA authorizes Army Corps of Engineers water projects. While SRF is primarily focused on water quality, WRDA is primarily focused on flood control, navigation, and environmental restoration projects—and they are incredibly important for our economy.
America’s ports and harbors are our gateway to the world. Goods worth $5.5 billion pass through our ports each day and more than 2.5 billion tons of trade move through our ports and waterways each year—that volume is expected to double over the next 15 years.
We need to pass another WRDA. America’s port economy alone is responsible for 5 million jobs. If our waterways aren’t maintained, ships can literally stop in the undredged waters.
Also within my Committee’s jurisdiction is the General Services Administration (GSA) which owns and leases over 352 million square feet of space in 8,600 buildings in more than 2,200 communities nationwide. By investing in public building infrastructure and making these buildings models of energy efficiency, we can stimulate the economy and save taxpayers money.
Nationwide, buildings account for 40 percent of the energy consumed in the United States, and there is a lot of room for improvement.
Continuing our efforts to make these buildings efficient is key to the fight against global warming and reducing costs.
Our central goal in the next Congress will be economic recovery.
I believe that the Environment and Public Works Committee will play a vital role in that effort because of our responsibility for infrastructure including roads, bridges, drinking water and wastewater systems, flood control and federal buildings.
Investments in these areas will substantially boost the economy and create jobs.
Addressing global warming will also create jobs through the development of new energy sources – solar, wind and geothermal.
And a new report from the U.S. Conference of Mayors estimates that by 2038, another 4.2 million green jobs could be added to the economy – thanks to the alternative energy and renewable energy industries, and the benefits of energy efficiency. That could account for 10 percent of job growth over the next 30 years.
We know what we need to do – accelerate economic recovery. Investments in infrastructure are central to our efforts – let’s get started now.
Thanks to all of you for joining me here today.