Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) and general contractors from South Dakota today called on the House of Representatives to provide certainty for our economy by passing a two-year bipartisan transportation bill, which passed the Senate with 74 votes. Earlier today, the House insisted on a 90-day extension.
“While I am pleased that critical highway and transit programs won’t lapse this weekend, the House needs to get serious when they come back in session and provide certainty for our economy as construction season begins,” said Johnson. “Instead of continuing to kick the can down the road, the House should pass the bipartisan Senate transportation bill.”
“South Dakota contractors are very relieved a shut-down of the federal highway program was adverted. However, this action is just another in a series of short-term extensions that does little to rectify the problem,” said Toby Crow, Executive Vice President, Association of General Contractors of South Dakota. “In order to maintain South Dakota’s roads and bridges, a multi-year, adequately funded highway bill is needed. Such a bill would allow long-term planning and provide certainty to contractors who in-turn would hire people and purchase new equipment. In short, a multi-year adequately funding highway bill would be good for the economy!”
Nationally, the Senate-passed transportation bill supports three million jobs, including over 10,000 in South Dakota.
“A multi-year bill means jobs for South Dakota and the rest of the nation. We are talking about supporting 10,000 jobs right here in our state,” Johnson continued.
The 2-year Senate surface transportation bill makes investments in our nation’s roads, bridges and highways at a time when many are posing safety risks for drivers. The Federal Highway Administration estimates that of the nearly 6,000 road bridges in South Dakota, over 1,200 are structurally deficient. Fifty percent of our roads nationwide are also in need of repair. The highway portion of the bill preserves South Dakota’s approximate share of funding. The bill is estimated to provide South Dakota with about $570 million in highway funding over the two-year bill, restoring certainty to transportation planning.
As Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee Chairman, Johnson crafted the public transportation portion of the Senate bill, which reduces red tape and updates the way funding is allocated to better recognize the needs of rural transit systems in states like South Dakota. The Senate bill will increase South Dakota’s overall annual transit funding by more than $2.4 million compared with fiscal year 2011, an increase of 26 percent.
The bill also preserves funding for smaller metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), which are essential to coordinating transportation programs in and around Sioux Falls, Rapid City, and Sioux City.