December 08, 2009

Senators Urge President to Put Americans to Work Rebuilding Our Crumbling Infrastructure

Washington, DC - As the President and Congress continue to examine new ways to create jobs, a group of 24 U.S. Senators today urged President Obama to focus these efforts on rebuilding our nation's infrastructure. In a letter to the President, the Senators argued that their states have "significant, documented infrastructure repair needs" which present a prime opportunity for job creation. The letter was signed by Senators Whitehouse, Leahy, Levin, Kerry, Harkin, Wyden, Durbin, Reed, Landrieu, Schumer, Bill Nelson, Stabenow, Sanders, Brown, Casey, Klobuchar, Tom Udall, Shaheen, Hagan, Merkley, Begich, Burris, Franken, and Kirk.

"We urge you to focus your jobs efforts on such projects," the Senators wrote. "In addition to all their other benefits, these are projects virtually certain to be required to be done sooner or later. Thus, getting the work done now would not add in a meaningful way to our national long-term fiscal liabilities. We have to rebuild this failed infrastructure - why not now when we need the jobs?"

The failing state of American infrastructure has been well documented - from the tragic bridge collapse in Minnesota to the weight limit imposed daily on Rhode Island's Pawtucket River Bridge. In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has estimated that we currently have a $662 billion water and wastewater infrastructure deficit.

The Senators suggested in their letter that mayors and governors could assemble lists of necessary infrastructure projects for consideration in their cities and states. Funding would then be allocated in a way that would maximize job creation by taking into account variables such as population, unemployment rate, and other factors.

The full text of the Senators' letter is below.

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December 7, 2009

The President
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We write as Senators deeply concerned that American families are suffering from catastrophic levels of unemployment, imperiling our economic recovery, at a time when much American infrastructure is badly deteriorated and needing repair.

Each of us in our home states has significant, documented infrastructure repair needs. Each of us has bridges condemned or under weight restrictions, roadways the U.S. Department of Transportation has deemed unfit for further maintenance, water treatment facilities that release raw sewage into our waterways after it rains, old school buildings that pose safety hazards for our students, or other structures in demonstrable disrepair. Each of us is confident that our mayors and governors could readily assemble lists of such projects, documenting each project, its cost and employment numbers, a promised start and end date, and objective standards showing the decrepitude and obsolescence of the existing infrastructure.

In the water and wastewater area alone, the Environmental Protection Agency has documented an "infrastructure deficit" of $662 billion, against which the economic recovery bill put only $6 billion, less than one percent.

We urge you to focus your jobs efforts on such projects. In addition to all their other benefits, these are projects virtually certain to be required to be done sooner or later. Thus, getting the work done now would not add in a meaningful way to our national long-term fiscal liabilities. We have to rebuild this failed infrastructure - why not now when we need the jobs?

We also believe that a transparent process, led by governors and mayors, for identifying and funding these clearly necessary projects, can put people very quickly to work. Funding should be allocated to states by a formula that takes into account variables to maximize job creation, such as population and relative economic distress, while maintaining existing minimum small state allocations to ensure that all parts of the country benefit from strengthened infrastructure.

We urge your consideration of a rapid and transparent process for identifying and funding repairs to such failed infrastructure.

Very truly yours,

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse
Senator Patrick J. Leahy
Senator Carl Levin
Senator John F. Kerry
Senator Tom Harkin
Senator Ron Wyden
Senator Richard J. Durbin
Senator Jack Reed
Senator Mary L. Landrieu
Senator Charles E. Schumer
Senator Bill Nelson
Senator Debbie Stabenow
Senator Bernard Sanders
Senator Sherrod Brown
Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr.
Senator Amy Klobuchar
Senator Tom Udall
Senator Jeanne Shaheen
Senator Kay R. Hagan
Senator Jeff Merkley
Senator Mark Begich
Senator Roland W. Burris
Senator Al Franken
Senator Paul G. Kirk, Jr.