Bring long-term highway bill to vote

Granite Staters often ask me, “What’s the most important thing Congress can do to foster job growth in the state?” Since taking office, I’ve traveled across our congressional district and visited with scores of business owners, workers and community leaders to hear directly from them about how we can continue to create jobs and economic opportunity. Many might be surprised by the answer.

While lowering taxes and cutting costs for small businesses is certainly a high priority, what I also hear over and over again is this: We must improve our nation’s transportation infrastructure. Business leaders want to get their employees to work and their goods to market – safely, efficiently, and reliably.

Here in New Hampshire, we are poised to become leaders in the global, 21st century economy. Small businesses in the state have harnessed new technologies to create innovative products designed for today’s markets. At the same time, our state’s infrastructure is firmly stuck in the 20th century.

With crumbling roads and bridges all across the state, our communities are hindered by an inability to efficiently transport goods. Our lack of rail access makes it harder for these companies to recruit talent and ship products across New England. And yet some politicians have put partisan politics ahead of doing what is right for our country and for New Hampshire: passing a long-term highway bill so we can fix our roads and bridges and support economic growth across the nation.

Countless infrastructure projects across our country rely on federal funding from what’s known as the Highway Trust Fund. For years, Congress has played politics with funding for the Highway Trust Fund, and has refused to pass a bill to fully replenish the trust fund for the long term.

Instead, Congress has relied on temporary, short-term fixes that do not provide the certainty our local transportation planners need to make long-term investments in roads, bridges and other projects. Once again, the latest short-term funding fix is set to expire at the end of July. And if no action is taken, the Highway Trust Fund will face a shortfall this summer – which could disrupt thousands of crucial infrastructure projects across the country in the middle of the busy summer construction season.

A few weeks ago I had the honor of touring the Broad Street Parkway project in Nashua. Once complete, this project will improve access to the city’s downtown area by providing another crossing of the Nashua River. This two-lane road will relieve congestion and thus bolster economic development downtown and in the city’s millyard. What’s more, it supports important construction jobs that so many New Hampshire workers rely on.

But projects similar to this one all across the state could be threatened if the Highway Trust Fund is allowed to run dry. That’s why I’m saying: Enough.

It is long past time to put an end to temporary fixes and pass a long-term surface transportation bill. Congress needs to put aside partisan politics, and think about what passage of this bill would mean for Americans: more reliable options for growing companies, improved safety for families who drive on unstable roads and bridges every day, and thousands of jobs on projects here in New Hampshire and throughout the country.

That’s why I recently called on House leadership to immediately bring a long-term highway bill to a vote. And that’s why I’m urging Republicans and Democrats in Congress to join me in supporting such legislation. There is simply too much at stake to allow the Highway Trust Fund to run dry; for our local businesses, our construction workers, and the safety of our families, we must get this done. Let’s stop procrastinating, and let’s do it – now.

Rep. Ann Kuster represents New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional District.

Categories: Opinion