As the COVID-19 crisis continues to shift the political landscape, 293 elected officials and organizations from 45 states signed Transportation for America’s letter urging Congress to reform the federal transportation program in the upcoming reauthorization. Because rethinking transportation policy matters now more than ever.
When Transportation for America first wrote this letter advocating for groundbreaking changes in the upcoming federal transportation reauthorization, COVID-19 had yet to radically alter our everyday lives. But as the effects of the virus grew more and more dire, we’ve realized that establishing a new framework for U.S. transportation policy matters more now than ever.
We’re not alone: 293 elected officials and organizations from 45 states signed this letter, with many signatories joining as the coronavirus accelerated. While focused on reauthorization, adopting the reforms in this letter is necessary for Congress to guarantee that any future COVID-19 stimulus substantially improves American lives—not just pump more money into a broken highway program that fails to create new jobs.
“Americans can’t afford another six years of the status quo” said Beth Osborne, director of T4America. “Our transportation needs to better connect all people to jobs and services safely, affordably, and conveniently to get us through this current crisis and to aid our economic recovery. Congress needs to use the upcoming reauthorization to finally align transportation spending with today’s national goals—not as a vehicle to funnel more money into programs that fail to improve people’s lives.”
The letter asks Congress to adopt T4America’s three principles for transportation investment: Prioritize maintenance over expansion, design for safety over speed, and connect people to jobs and services.
Road or bridge repair and maintenance projects actually create more jobs per dollar than building new capacity. Maintenance projects spend money faster, are open to more kinds of workers, spend less money on equipment and more on wages, and spend less time on plans and permits. In fact, roadway maintenance creates 16 percent more jobs per dollar compared to roadway expansion.
Designing roadways for safety would make walking to destinations or transit stops easier and more convenient. Millions rely on transit to get to work, access healthcare, go to the grocery store. With 2.8 million essential workers relying on transit to get to work, making transit trips more feasible is more important than ever before.
The point of transportation is to get people where they need to go, meaning we should prioritize infrastructure and transportation projects that connect people to jobs and services. Since the dawn of the modern highway era, we have used vehicle speed as a poor proxy for access to jobs and important services like healthcare, education, public services, and grocery stores. The way we build roads and design communities to achieve high vehicle speed often requires longer trips and makes shorter walking, bicycling, or transit trips unsafe, unpleasant, or impossible. New data can help to address decades of disinvestment which have disconnected communities and worsened economic outcomes.
Regardless of whether infrastructure will be included in a future COVID-19 stimulus, it is critical that Congress establish a foundation for transportation investment that guarantees that funding goes to projects that actually improve people’s lives. The ongoing economic and health crisis is the biggest testament to why the U.S. needs a new and better framework for our investments so that we can build stronger, more prosperous communities.
Last fall, we published our in-depth policy recommendations for the upcoming reauthorization. Read them here.
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