By Representative Candice Miller
Fifty-six years ago to the day that President Dwight D. Eisenhower penned into law the National Interstate Highway Act, both chambers of Congress came together in a bipartisan fashion to continue funding transportation and infrastructure projects by passing the surface transportation reauthorization bill for two years. Because our economy continues to struggle, it is more important than ever that Congress recognized that no bill will ever be perfect, but an agreement that will serve to create jobs was beneficial to all.
When the first highway bill was signed into law in 1956, the original cost was $25 billion for the construction of 41,000 miles of highway. At the time, it was the largest public works project in American history. Nearly 60 years later, the new highway bill provides for over $100 billion for approximately 160,000 miles of existing federally funded highways, in addition to transit and safety programs. It is estimated that this new legislation will create three million jobs and provides a shot in the arm to the economy that it desperately needs.
As a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I am proud to have worked with my colleagues to craft a bill that -- while not perfect -- addresses our nation's most critical transportation needs. What is the greatest victory for Michiganians is that we once again improved the rate of return on gas tax dollars that Michigan sends to Washington. When I first came to Congress, Michigan was receiving less than 90 cents back on every dollar we paid into the Highway Trust Fund. In the 2005 Highway Bill we increased that level to 92 cents on the dollar and in this bill we increased that level again to 95 cents on the dollar which will mean hundreds of millions of additional dollars coming to our state to help us meet our vast infrastructure needs.
Moreover, from a good government and fiscal responsibility perspective, this legislation consolidates nearly two-thirds of the programs and streamlines the project delivery process without compromising environmental laws. This not only creates a more efficient way of doing business but the savings will mean more dollars going to road improvements and less to bureaucratic waste.
Additionally the bill improves the regulatory process to make certain that road projects are able to be completed in a timelier basis. Previously the law required that each bureaucratic review to be completed one after another. This bill allows multiple regulatory processes to happen concurrently which will reduce the time needed to go from conception to completion of road projects.
President Eisenhower's vision of a nation interconnected by safe and durable highways continues long after the first ground was broken in 1956. Our nation's highways touch upon every aspect of American life and the creation of our national highway system helped move our economy to a new level. Throughout history economic growth has always followed the transportation grid. Whether it was seaports in the early days of our republic, to canals, to wagon trails, to rail links, to highways and airports, economic growth is impossible without transportation infrastructure to move people, goods and services.
This bill is another step forward for our transportation grid and our economy.