A little over 90 days ago Congress demonstrated their commitment to America’s transportation system by passing the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, and the real work is just beginning. The concepts and authorized funding of the FAST Act now have to be transformed into new bus systems, extended rail lines, safer vehicles, and other transportation improvements.
American business will play a key part in this next step, particularly manufacturers. Through a bipartisan effort in both chambers during a politically charged environment, Congress authorized $48.9 billion in public transit funding over the next five years, securing economic certainty for the first time in more than a decade for not just the transporters of people and goods, but the organizations that rely on those customers to keep their business afloat. Now the manufacturing community must call on state leaders to exhibit the same courage and address this issue head on.
Manufacturing for transportation affects every part of the American economy, from the buses and cars on the highways, to the equipment manufacturers producing and pouring the concrete footers that support roads and bridges. The highway bill calls for spending approximately $205 billion on highways and $48 billion on transit projects over the next five years. For hard pressed industries like equipment manufacturers, this delivers new promise through $13 billion in economic activity related to construction equipment and 4,000 new jobs over the next five years, as reported by the Associated Equipment Distributors.
To keep U.S. manufacturing competitive in a global marketplace we must support transportation policies that invest in infrastructure at both the federal and state level. The need to update and modernize our nation’s transportation infrastructure extends beyond state transportation departments and road builders, it requires a smart, savvy workforce to meet the challenge, and manufacturers stand ready to support that challenge. Their industry requires stable and reliable infrastructure to compete in today’s economy, and the FAST Act finally provides that certainty.
While passage of the FAST Act was a critical first step to improving American public transportation, there is still work to be done. States and municipalities must meet the federal government halfway — by providing a percentage of project funding and developing and administering successful programs. State legislatures are now in session, and many state governments are considering funding measures for public transportation. But with tax revenues from the oil industry continuing to fall and the adverse effects of a gas tax increase in an election year, state law makers are faced with challenging decisions. State transportation funds are running low across the country, threatening to slow down transit improvements and delay economic activity.
So why do we care? There is no manufacturing industry if we don’t have the people to build the product. It is these employees who benefit most from the FAST Act. Washington came together in a time of crisis, unified towards a singular goal, and demonstrated the power in a democracy to build a stronger America: securing federal funding in a system that supports an entire supply chain of American companies and their employees. When business and manufacturing work together, it benefits America by creating jobs that help families thrive, keep the economy strong, innovates new products, and keep us competitive.
The business and manufacturing community appreciated Washington removing party lines and doing something good to secure America’s future last year. It’s a great example of when industry and policymakers work side by side, it all starts coming together. We hope our state leaders will follow in suit to address these tough decisions head on.
Teresa Stepic serves as Vice President of Client Relations at DDC, where she supports and manages client advocacy campaigns at the local, state, federal, and international levels.