The Associated Press distributed a story yesterday claiming that a surface transportation bill would not necessarily create jobs, but instead shift investments that are already creating jobs to the transportation industry. However, money invested in essential public works can create thousands jobs across the nation, provide for economic growth, and ensure public safety.
The nation’s transportation infrastructure system has an annual output of $120 billion in construction work and contributes $244 billion in total economic activity to the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). In addition to the economic benefits, the Federal Highway Administration estimates that every $1 billion invested in the nation’s highways supports 27,823 jobs, including 9,537 on-site construction jobs, 4,324 jobs in supplier industries, and 13,962 jobs throughout the rest of the economy. While Standard and Poor’s has stated that highway investment has been shown to stimulate the economy more than any other fiscal policy, with each invested dollar in highway construction generating $1.80 toward the gross domestic product in the short term.
In July 2011, ASCE released an economic study that measures the potential impacts to the economy in 2020 and 2040 if the nation maintains current levels of surface transportation investments. The study, Failure to Act: the Economic Impact of Current Investment Trends in Surface Transportation Infrastructure, found that if investments in surface transportation are not made in conjunction with significant policy reforms, families will have a lower standard of living, businesses will be paying more and producing less, and our nation will lose ground in a global economy.
Furthermore, the study found that the nation’s deteriorating surface transportation will cost the American economy more than 876,000 jobs, and suppress the growth of the country’s GDP by $897 billion in 2020. The results also estimate that more than 100,900 manufacturing jobs will be lost by 2020 and that ultimately Americans will get paid less. In contrast, a study from the Alliance for American Manufacturing shows that roughly 18,000 new manufacturing jobs are created for every $1 billion in new infrastructure spending.
The nation’s economic health is dependent on a strong infrastructure system. By updating, maintaining, and building our roads, bridges, and transit systems, the nation can create jobs in both the public and private sector, while fostering and growing the United States economy. Therefore, the first step toward a modernized transportation system must include passing a multi-year surface transportation authorization. With the Senate slowly working through a series of non-germane amendments to MAP-21, and the House reassessing their next steps after pulling the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, surface transportation programs continue to face an uncertain future. ASCE hopes that the House and Senate can find a solution and pass legislation in the 112th Congress. In the meantime, surface transportation programs will be subjected to another extension, while American jobs hang on the line.