Between 2010 and 2040, the U.S. economy is projected to lose $2.7 trillion because of the deterioration of infrastructure, according to a report issued by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Hazelton, spoke Wednesday about the nation’s infrastructure woes during a breakfast presented by the Carlisle Area Chamber of Commerce.
“We are letting America’s infrastructure fall apart,” Barletta said. “We’re not going to save any money by doing that, because it’s going to cost us more. Roads don’t get better. Bridges don’t get better. They get worse and ... they cost you even more money.”
Barletta highlighted the need for a long-term federal infrastructure bill that includes a sustainable funding source.
In December, President Barack Obama signed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act which invests $305 billion in infrastructure over five years.
Barletta praised the bill, but said five years is likely not long enough to spur major economic development. He said a true long-term transportation bill was likely needed to eliminate uncertainty and entice investment.
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“We did pass a five-year bill, which is a big deal for everyone in Washington,” he said. “They think anything more than two years is long term. In this industry, nobody is going to buy a $1 million piece of equipment based on a two year bill. There is nothing better for the local economy than a long term transportation bill, because people will make good money.”
While Barletta said the funding source for infrastructure needs to be sustainable and dedicated solely for transportation spending, he did not say what that source should be.
He suggested a usage fee and said the current 18 cents per gallon federal gasoline tax was likely not high enough to meet the current demands. He said issues with the gasoline tax are compounded given only a portion of the revenue goes to repairing infrastructure.
“They haven’t changed that since 1990 something,” Barletta said. “... The problem with that is it all doesn’t go to fixing our roads and bridges. ... When you have a conversation with the American people and you ask them ‘are you willing to pay a little bit more to fix your roads and bridge’ most people will say ‘yeah, I will.’ The problem is that’s not what we do with the money.”
Federal spending for transportation has dropped from roughly 3 percent of the county’s GDP in 1962 to about 1.4 percent in 2011, according a report released by the White House.
“The bottom line the more we delay the more people lose their lives, the more accidents happens and the more it costs in repairs,” Barletta said, speaking to safety concerns about Interstate 81. “Our inaction in Washington costs you money and possibly your life. I think people are at the point are the point that we can say ‘how are we going to fund this?’ We agree, so how are we going to do it?”