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Mrs. SHAHEEN. Mr. President, we voted 85 to 11 to start work on the highway bill, which is an essential piece of legislation to reauthorize our highway and transit programs.
Eight hundred sixty-eight days have passed since our last Federal Transportation bill expired. If you cannot do the math very fast, just to put a little more emphasis on that, that is 2 years, 4 months, and 18 days since the last Federal Transportation bill expired.
We need new legislation to help streamline Federal programs, spur job creation, and move our transportation system into the 21st century.
This Transportation bill before us is about infrastructure. We call it infrastructure because ``infra'' means ``below.'' So it is the foundation beneath everything else on which our civilized country is built. As we think about the buildings and operating our municipalities and our States and our Federal Government, our country, it is about making sure we have a sound infrastructure.
Our businesses, our workers, our innovators, all of them rely on a system of quality infrastructure to succeed. More funding for transportation in this bill means we can do critical roads and bridges, and we can do repairs to the existing roads and bridges. It means we have more transit for buses and railroads, and it means we can put people back to work. More jobs for construction and manufacturing workers, more jobs for workers means more consumer spending and a stronger overall economy.
The Federal Highway Administration estimates that for every $1 we spend on highways, that spending supports more than 27,000 jobs. Economists at Moody's estimate that for every $1 we invest in infrastructure, our gross domestic product goes up by $1.59. That is because of the ripple effect those investments have on our economy.
The bill before us would help create about 1 million American jobs, many of them in the construction industry, which has been one of the hardest hit by the recession. In New Hampshire, the number of people who were working in the construction industry in 2010 was the lowest it had been in a decade--25 percent lower than it was in 2006, 5 years ago. We need to pass this bill to help put those people back to work.
One of the most important efforts we have in New Hampshire right now is the long overdue and badly needed widening of Interstate 93, which is in the southern part of New Hampshire. I 93 is our State's most important highway. It connects New Hampshire citizens to their jobs, businesses to global markets, and communities to each other.
Right now this vital artery is badly clogged. Every day 100,000 cars travel on a road designed for 60,000. This congestion wastes time and wastes money. Crowding so many vehicles on Interstate 93 is not only an inconvenience to the thousands who use it every day, but it also compromises the safety of drivers traveling at regular highway speed in heavy traffic.
The Interstate 93 project was budgeted and planned based on the idea that the Federal Government would provide a consistent level of funding. But the uncertainty created by the lack of a long-term highway bill has made the project difficult to finance. Right now New Hampshire transportation officials have $115 million worth of bonding for this project that is sitting on the sidelines until the Federal Government makes good on its commitment. We need to move these Federal funds off the sidelines and get this project going.
Laura Scott, who is the economic development director for the town of Windham, near the Massachusetts border, summed it up best:
The I 93 project is critical to the future economic vitality of Windham and all of southern New Hampshire. Our businesses want it, our citizens want it, and we need to get it done.
The bill before us today can help complete this vital project and others like it. We need to work on this bill in a bipartisan fashion just as it has come out of the Environment and Public Works Committee. There was strong bipartisan support coming out of that committee. We need to set aside the partisanship now, the election year comments, and come together to do what is right for our economy and our country. I hope in the end all of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will support that.
I suggest the absence of a quorum.
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