By Rep. Mike Sanders
I have recently talked with U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, Chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, and his staff, who are working to get reauthorization of federal funding for highways. The job of all elected officials is to work together for the common good of their constituents. For that reason, I want to help explain the need for this important federal legislation and for a robust and continuing investment in this country’s infrastructure.
A measure to reauthorize federal funding for six years will soon be on the floor of the U.S. Congress. Through his leadership, it was approved unanimously in Senator Inhofe’s committee in late June. Unlike many federal programs today, highway funding is a core service which benefits all of the public and falls very strongly in line with the constitutional duties of Congress. The U.S. Constitution calls for the federal government to support interstate commerce. Nothing is more central to that goal than our interstate transportation infrastructure.
There are 47,000 miles of interstate and 18 billion tons of freight worth $17 trillion moving across the country annually. A strong, well maintained and efficient local, state and national transportation network is the only publicly accessible infrastructure that can directly impact our quality of life, our economic viability and our very strength as a State and a Nation. Every year, Oklahoma produces more than $6 billion in exports to more than 25 countries. Our goods travel across multiple states to get to ports such as Long Beach, which we use to export to Asia. Eighty percent of the tonnage shipped annually from sites in the state are carried by trucks and another seven percent are carried by courier services or multiple mode deliveries, which include trucking. Highway accessibility consistently ranks among the top site selection factors that drives the decision making of corporate executives. Sound investments in transportation infrastructure add travel and access value and provide a tangible, immediate and easily quantifiable return.
The proposed reauthorization bill provides almost $100 billion in additional funding for the next six years. Lesser amounts over shorter authorization periods constrains our ability to develop our best investment strategy and would force states to give up larger, longer projects. The bill also streamlines the project delivery process to improve the speed at which projects can be started and completed. The bill also specifically targets bridge safety and the interstate system. Finally, it provides for more local control over which projects are priorities.
I have written at length about the need to prioritize infrastructure funding. No doubt, the administrative burden and overreach of the federal government needs to be downsized, but when it comes to road and bridge funding, the opposite is true. Investing in transportation infrastructure is a primary and constitutional responsibility of the federal government that cannot and should not be ignored.
As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be contacted at (405) 557-7407.